CHIC is the abbreviation bestowed upon the China International Clothing and Accessories Fair. CHIC is the biggest fashion trade fair in China, held annually in Beijing to coincide with China Fashion Week. Last year I reported on CHIC 2011 and I ventured back there again last week for the 20th anniversary fair.
Over four days more than100,000 people stream through the massive exhibition center that comprises eight aircraft hanger sized halls. The seething mass of industry executives, agents, distributors, families, counterfeit goods designers, etc. manoeuvre their way through the crowds and clamor for every free goodie bag, look book and glimpse or photo opportunity with foreign models they can muster.
CHIC has very few requirements for brands wishing to exhibit and this results in halls overflowing with Chinese brands engaged in every manner of fashion related business you can (and would never) imagine. There are also halls dedicated to international brands.
In this environment where anything goes I found myself searching out the best constructed booth, merchandising displays, and ‘only in China’ designs. I also amused myself by identify the ‘best of the worst’ copyright infringements, product displays and foreign models who had been plucked from the nearest high school. See the winners in photos below.
In a similar way in how I reported on China Fashion Week, I’ve departed from my “this exhibition is a mess” way of thinking about CHIC to a “WOW, that’s totally crazy and interesting” method of observation. I was genuinely impressed with the Metersbonwe booth that could easily have been mistaken for an international brand. Metersbonwe is China’s biggest fast fashion brand with some 4000 stores across the country and has better chances than most of succeeding internationally.
CHIC as a platform for international brands seeking to enter China
Trade fairs around the world can offer an excellent chance for brands to connect with buyers, distributors and media. In China the fashion industry works differently and many international brands that attempt to use CHIC as a market entry vehicle end up disappointed. Why is this?
As I wrote last year in this post about department stores in China, multi-brand stores don’t really exist in China and department stores don’t buy any merchandise for themselves. This means fashion buyers don’t exist in China either and brands will not meet or connect with buyers at trade fairs in China. This leaves the main point of trade fairs in China to be finding potential partners, licensees and distributors.
The biggest problem that CHIC endures is that its open to the general public. This means anyone can and does go along. It becomes a day out for families who traipse around to see all the flashy booths collect and much free crap as physically possible. This does absolutely no favors for brands wishing to connect with potential partners as they have great difficulty in screening quality inquiries from bogus ones.
Another problem with CHIC is that it is organized by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce who ‘request’ and ‘encourage’ foreign countries to host pavilions to promote their own brands. Therefore each country’s pavilion are administered by their respective embassies and trade departments who have limited resources and little focus or expertise on market entry for fashion retailers. In my opinion it’s largely a waste of time for international brands to exhibit in this way.
There are exceptions to the rule. Most American brands at CHIC exhibited at the ENK USA booth. ENK is an established fashion trade fair in the USA and they were also part of CHIC 2011. Compared to last year, ENK’s brand line up was disappointing and most 2011 ENK participant brands did not come back this year indicating that they either found a China partner already, decided they weren’t ready for China or that CHIC wasn’t worth it. Other foreign brands such as Desigual had their own independent booth and Paul Frank was presented in the Chinese pavilion through its China partner or licensee.
For foreign brands considering exhibiting at CHIC its important to be realistic. While it is possible that CHIC will connect you with the right Chinese partner its far from easy and whether or not CHIC is worth the time and resources is questionable. Taken in the right context CHIC can give tremendous insights into how the Chinese fashion industry works and is worth visiting if you happen to be in Beijing.
Best in Class
Best Chinese Brand Booth: Metersbonwe
Best International Brand Booth: Desigual
Best International Sounding Brand Name: ZARILA
Best Executed Copyright Infringement: Four-way tie
-N&Q for copying Giorgio Armani’s Façade Design
-Yousoku.com for copying Apple’s ipod Advertisement
-Good Luck Gladis for copying Paul & Shark’s entire look and logo
-See Your Story for copying Burberry’s holographic fashion show