Fashions for China, not just about China

Stereotype-driven creations represent the way that an overwhelming number of the world’s top designers have long envisioned “Chinese fashion”—designs centered around fictional China fantasies that were created almost solely for Western consumption. Now, however, things are changing.

According to this article from Jing Daily, it will ultimately be wealthy Chinese consumers who make the final judgment call on this issue—with their wallets. Even if certain designs with Chinese elements don’t come across as offensive, they won’t resonate with consumers if they show a lack of understanding of Chinese culture.

China can no longer exist just in fashion labels’ fantasies if they want to stay in business, and the perception that a garment is culturally tone-deaf will now lead directly to decreased profits.

Over the past decade, Chinese luxury spending has grown tenfold and represented 30 percent of the global luxury market in 2014, according to Altagamma and Bain. This has been a rapid and groundbreaking change, since they accounted for only 3 percent only 10 years earlier.

That number is just the average, and is much higher for some fashion brands—Chinese consumers make up 38 percent of Prada’s customer base, 37 percent of Gucci’s, and 35 percent of Bottega Veneta’s and Burberry’s, according to estimates from Exane BNP Paribas.

A China-exclusive dress created by Valentino and presented in Shanghai in 2013 that will be on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s “China: Through the Looking Glass” Exhibit in New York. (Metropolitan Museum of Art)