Canadians to Woo China with World Music Fashion Festival

Photos courtesy Empress Communications | Two Flies Photography
The two worlds of fashion and music first collided during the Jazz Age of flappers and Prohibition. Ever since, this marriage of like artistic minds has played out in music videos, runway shows and commercials. Events like Fashion Cares and Fashion Rocks launched in 2003 brought music and fashion together for charity. This fall music and fashion come together for the future.  
 
The future of Canadian fashion. 
 
I heard about the World Music Fashion Festival (WMFF) on its first tour through China featuring Canadian designers Evan Biddell, Paul Hardy and Juma. Developed by Vancouver-based Empress Communications as part of the China Overseas Designer Program, WMFF helps expose independent designers and artists to the Chinese market. It’s only offered to a select number of designers each year.  Triarchy, Bustle Clothing and Lucian Matis participated in 2012.
Bustle Clothing’s Shawn Hewson
Luxury labels have had their eye on China for business expansion for years. While the recession has slowed retail growth around the globe, China’s middle class is booming, packing a lot of power behind consumer spending.  
 
Even though luxury is driving most sales – this year alone, Chinese consumers will account for about one-third of all luxury purchases* – there is also a growing demand for fast fashion brands and Western labels in general. That’s good news for young designers looking for buyers. So good in fact, that Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour and the Council of Fashion Designers of America recently sent three American designers to China as part of a joint Fashion Fund program. Rag and Bone, Marchesa and Proenza Schouler staged a fashion show near the Great Wall of China last month.
Wintour explained the benefits of this kind of exchange program in a recent interview, “One of the reasons the European houses went to China is that they needed to expand. The U.S. didn’t have that sense of need at the time, but young designers are working in a very different environment [than] when a Ralph Lauren was their age and they are thinking in a very different way. They are thinking globally.” (The Malta Independent, August 1, 2013).
The World Music Fashion Festival is gearing up for its third trip East this October.  Once again the festival will take Canadian singers, DJs, models and designers through three major cities – Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu in October.  Stay tuned for more from WMFF.  Until then check out previous year’s WMFF photos here.
 
(From Fashionbi.com’s Fashion Retail Trends in China, June 3, 2013)

Deomcracy of FashionStake.com

Just before LG Fashion Week began last month in Toronto, the design label JUMA launched a pre-order sale of their Fall 2010 silk scarves on Fashionstake.com on the exact same day as their Spring 2011 preview in Toronto. But only one of those guaranteed customers.  Haven’t heard of Fashion Stake?  Oh, you will.

Reuter’s reported on Fashionstake.com and its founders, Harvard grads Vivien Weng and Daniel Gulati, back in April. Even before the September launch, the business had gained exceptional attention. The model – eliminate the retailer, give the customer the power to help a designer succeed – would never work, they were told. I recently spoke to Weng who talked about Fashion Stake’s early success and what the future holds. In much the same way Groupon and TeamBuy use crowd-sourcing to offer group deals, Fashion Stake unites customers behind individual fashion and accessory designers. For a select time period, pieces are available for pre-buy to ensure minimum orders are met, which collectively raises capital and awareness for up-and-coming designers. “We wanted to help the designer, but do it in a commercial way.” (It should come as no surprise that one of Fashion Stake’s backers was also an early investor in Groupon.)

The initial concept at launch actually invited customers to invest in designers (i.e., buy a “stake” in said designer) via different models of participation, but the most popular out of the gate was the option to pre-order items from a designer’s collection. “The concept [of a stake] was sexy, but we needed to offer something tangible. Pre-ordering solved that problem.”  It also solves a capital problem for the designer, raising the funds needed to produce an item. And just like other crowd-sourcing platforms, customers are only charged if Fashion Stake pre-buys reach the minimum. 
 
In the near to far future, depending on funding and resources, Vivien and her team hope to increase opportunities for customers to connect with designers and vice versa. They are also looking for ways to open the platform to provide designers with a DIY approach to launching their own shop on Fashionstake. “Our focus right now is mostly New York-based designers because that’s who we can physically research. We need to find a way to work with designers that is a sustainable for us, that’s scalable.” 
 
Weng hopes their plans will bring more diversity to their designer offerings. And if their plans come through, you can expect different kinds of designers – and certainly more Canadians – to use Fashion Stake as a way to reach a broader audience.  JUMA’s scarves have already made two appearances this fall. 

Pre-Fashion Week: Part 2

Friday night capped off Pre-Fashion Week with a short presentation by label JUMA at the Spoke Club.  Inspired by their trip to Kenya and Zaire, the sibling designers teamed African-inspired prints with their signature androgynous style.  A stunning line of scarves, which previewed on FashionStake.com the same day, hung from the ceiling like tribal birds.
As understated – shy, even – as the designers behind Greta Constantine are in person, these boys know hype.  And they know how to keep people wanting more.  Between strict instructions that “doors would close at 8pm” and the leaked info about a guest appearance by Coco Rocha it was no wonder the crowds spilled onto the street in a Studio 54-style mad dash to get inside.  The collection proved once again that Greta Constantine knows exactly what its customer wants – glamour without the fuss.

Pla$tic & Fanta$tic

The winner of this year’s annual TFI New Labels design competition will enjoy an added prize from everyone’s favourite fashionista. One year after her 50th anniversary, Barbie® has teamed up with Toronto Fashion Incubator to award $10,000 in cash along with the $25,000 in prizes from ELLE Canada magazine.

For 17 years TFI’s national competition has helped launch talents like David Dixon, Joeffer Caoc, NADA, Mercy, Katya Revenko, JUMA, Eugenia Leavitt and last year’s FAREN to name just a few.

This year the playing field has been levelled. What could be more challenging than taking on the little black dress? Applicants must be professional Canadian women’s wear apparel designers who have been in business three years or less.

Hurry! Deadline is November 24th.