STYLE OF THE ERA

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The first International Style Conference was jointly held in Niccolo Chengdu by T China and Chengdu International Finance Square (Chengdu IFS), dedicated to explore Style Transformation in China among global creative professionals. Being the first style conference on an international scale held in China, it represents the aesthetic value and lifestyle of the contemporary China society. The guests in attendance included Mr. Wen Feng,Deputy Director of Chengdu Municipal Commission of Commerce; Mr. Wu Wenhui, Deputy District Mayor of The People’s Government of Jinjiang District ; Mr. Xuan Feng, Editor-in-Chief of T China and Huasheng Media and Ms. Christina Hau, Wharf China Estates Limited General Manager (Operations). More than 20 guest speakers from over 10 countries, including China, UK, U.S, Japan, Singapore and Poland, gathered to share their insights on style and discuss how the Chinese style has been blended with global trends.

The three trillion-euro industry may accelerate next year. Fashion is one of the past decade’s rare economic success stories. Over that period, the industry has grown at 5.5 percent annually. In fact, not only does it touch everyone, but it would be the world’s seventh-largest economy if ranked alongside individual countries’ GDP.

Yet this year was one of the industry’s toughest years. Jihadi attacks, Brexit, and the volatility of the Chinese stock market have created shocks to the global economy. At the same time, consumers have become more demanding, more discerning, and less predictable in their purchasing behavior, which is being radically reshaped by new technologies. It’s against this backdrop that we shine a light on the fragmented, complex ecosystem that underpins this giant global industry.

It’s not only external shock waves that have roiled the industry. Companies have also been looking inward, implementing changes to the core operations that are reshaping the entire fashion system, from shortening the length of the fashion cycle to integrating sustainable innovation into the core product-design and manufacturing processes. Conditions for the fashion industry have worsened over the past 12 months.

This fact is clearly borne out in the industry’s financial performance. Sales growth seems set to slow to a mere 2 or, at most, 3 percent by the close of this year, with stagnating profit margins. Speculation and uncertainty over the repercussions of the US election outcome could further dampen consumer sentiment and affect sales. This is in stark contrast to the fashion industry’s performance over the previous decade, which saw the industry expand at 5.5 percent annually.

Yet this sluggish overall growth masks some big winners: affordable luxury, value, and athletic wear. With respect to sales growth, the affordable-luxury and value sectors have outperformed all other segments by one to one-and-a-half percentage points. This is consistent with their compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the past three years, which has been 9 percent for affordable luxury and 6 percent for value, the highest of any segment since 2013.

Affordable-luxury players benefited from consumers trading down from luxury, particularly among Chinese consumers. However, their profit margins are expected to decline, because of a pricing-arbitrage disadvantage across geographies and fluctuating foreign-exchange rates.

The value segment continued to grow this year, particularly as a consequence of large global players expanding geographically. With its clearly defined value proposition, the value segment has been taking share from discount this year.

This year, the 8.0 to 8.5 percent growth for athletic wear is more than double any other category. This is consistent with its 10 percent CAGR of the past decade, driven by consumers’ more active lifestyles, the rise of athleisure, emerging brands in the high-end segments, and product innovations. As athletic wear continues to grow, it will become a category with the ability to compete on equal terms with clothing and footwear, particularly in the midmarket and premium segments.

So what will change next year? No one would put money on volatility and uncertainty lessening. Nonetheless, our report finds that fashion companies are hopeful they can improve their performance through a combination of organic growth and leveraging new technologies. Successful companies will invest more to nurture local clientele: Next year will be the year of organic growth by deepening relationships with existing clients, rather than through geographic, channel, and store-network expansion. And digital innovation will go behind the scenes: digitization will be the key to supply-chain efficiency, lowering procurement costs, and the enhancement of sourcing opportunities.

We expect conditions for the fashion industry to improve next year. This is particularly true for the major players within each of the market segments and product categories. Many of them have already undertaken significant cost cutting and restructuring, and they are now primed to capture the benefits.

All things considered, we expect fashion-industry growth will increase to 2.5 to 3.5 percent next year, although the days when the industry outpaced GDP growth by as much as two percentage points seem over. A return to the riches of the previous decade appears unlikely. But equally, there is no call for rags just yet.

Performance will vary depending on the individual dynamics of specific market segments and categories. Value and affordable luxury will probably be the big winners, both outpacing the industry average at a projected 3.0 to 4.0 percent and 3.5 to 4.5 percent growth, respectively. That said, almost all other market segments should see a slight improvement in sales growth of half to one-and-a-half percentage points. Only the discount segment is likely not to be part of the recovery trend.

Product categories are expected to grow in line with the overall industry average, but the biggest winners will be those companies with coherent channel strategies and clear value definitions. Athletic wear is set to become the absolute category champion, maintaining 6.5 to 7.5 percent sales growth, although it will be unable to reproduce the double-digit growth of the past. The affordable-luxury segment seems likely to continue benefiting from consumers trading down from luxury, while signs point to the continued growth of the value segment as large global players expand internationally.

In short, the industry next year has an opportunity to stabilize and reset, and success stories will probably be written by those already planning for the year ahead. They should bear in mind the three trends that we believe will shape the fashion industry: the global economy, consumer behavior, and the fashion business model.

Economically, we see a number of trends that will shape the industry, including fashion’s response to intensifying volatility, continued challenges in China, and the rise of urban centers. To address consumer behavior, players will have to learn to serve shrewder and more-demanding customers and adjust to a shifting demographic profile. Finally, next year will also be a critical year for the fashion business system, with developments expected around the fashion cycle, technological advancements, and a shake-up in the ownership of fashion companies, as players restructure and industry outsiders step up their activities in the fashion sector. The bottom line is that amid this uncertainty and change, cautious optimism is warranted.

The First International Style Conference Opens In Chengdu
Since its establishment, T China has made its statement in the fashion media industry with its unique editing philosophy, winning an immense readership with top quality and high loyalty. As China becomes the most rapid-developing and noticed region in the world, how to describe its style and characteristics? This is what T China has been constantly exploring in the past 3 years. It’s also what the International Style Conference aimed to deliberate on.

Chengdu is a city of uniqueness, where the profound culture of Shu Han collides with contemporary fashion vitality. In the latest report “The Chinese City’s Commercial Charms List 2017” released by CBNweekly, Chengdu stays on the top of “The New First-tier Cities “, and receives full mark for its business resources. As the most sophisticated cosmopolitan city complex in Western China, Chengdu IFS has a very strong style, which corresponds with the theme of the conference perfectly. T China jointly organised the International Style Conference with Chengdu IFS in order to reflect the current trends in terms of contents, subjects and location. The conference also aimed to explore the logic behind such trends in an inspiring way.

International Style Conference was also part of the All IN Here–International Style Makes Its Mark in Chengdu 2017 campaign lead by Chengdu IFS. Coming after the friendly cooperative agreement between Chengdu IFS and Paris Saint-Germain-des-Près Committee, as well as the world’s first Sonic Runway, the Conference made another major event in the campaign.

Xuan Feng, Editor-in-Chief of T China and Huasheng Media stated: “in a constantly changing market, it is necessary for us to develop a more elitist consuming pattern. We chose to cooperate with Chengdu IFS because we recognize that the upgrade of consumption is becoming a beacon of lifestyle and even policies. Such recognition includes the understanding and usage of consumption products in a much broader sense. “

Ms. Christina Hau, Wharf China Estates Limited General Manager (Operations) said: “In a city, style means not only how the residents live their lives, but also the cultural experiences the city has integrated. Chengdu IFS demonstrates such a style as it continuously fulfills its vision as the most high-end city complex in Western China.”

International Creative Elites Gather At Chengdu
As is known, Chinese style has now become an indispensable part of the international fashion industry. Globally speaking, iconic Chinese elements such as totems of dragon and phoenix, the Chinese knot, kites and embroideries have been a fountain of ideas and inspiration to creative people. Under such circumstances, the inauguration of the first International Style Conference was definitely the chance of a lifetime for top creative people from different fields and backgrounds to gather together and initiate a magnificent feast.

The creatives invited to the International Style Conference all have interests and concerns that are similar to those of T. What really interests us is not some superficial decoration, but the cultural movement, commercial operations, and producing techniques involved in fashion. Nowadays, the authentic Chinese style lies in various dimensions including fashion, design, art and culture, and extends to the entire world with the development of technology and society. This conference stands as a powerful collision and mergence between the Chinese style and international creativity.

The guests invited to the speeches and discussions during the conference were highly representative. Focusing on the concept of “style”, they discussed the transformations of China under global context, as well as the consumption of luxury goods, art, culture, city, technology, design and innovation. In an era of information explosion and cultural collisions, how to interpret the heritage and development incorporated in the concept of style? That was the core issue of the conference.

Sarah Douglas, creative director of the International design magazine Wallpaper, decoded the revolution of design in a global context, demonstrating both the opportunities and challenges that Chinese designers are faced with. As she mentioned in her speech, China is now playing a greater role on the international stage of design. Nacho Alegre and Marco Velardi, founders of the independent interior design magazine Apartamento took the discussion further by sharing their experience on running “the hippiest interior design magazine”. They proposed a fresh and inspiring idea that “the real space is created through living, not decoration. Here we don’t have perfectionism, only participation.” As you leaf through Apartamento, you will see rooms packed with daily objects as well as human emotions and memories.

From New York to Chengdu, from international to domestic, the conference illuminated all the guests and inspired a lot of thoughts and ideas. In the speech section, Mr. Feng talked about his career in the media industry, as well as the integration of fashion and lifestyle, placing his personal experience in a greater picture. Ms. Christina Hau gave a speech entitled No Style Is a Style, or Is It The Death of Style, in which she meditated on the connection between the transformation of city style and architectures. As she pointed out, the best way to understand a city is to approach its architectures. While Ms. Hau focused on cities, Ms. Li Guanghan, Chinese project manager of the Global Heritage Fund (GHF) addressed rural culture. Her speech Heritage, community and inheritance – a brief attempt of preservation of Chinese traditional villages extended the meaning of style to a brand new level.

Besides the guests mentioned above, Wojciech PonikowskI, the founder of the parenthood magazine Fathers talked about how to balance life and work in the digital era. Creative fragrance designer Della Chuang took scent as the theme of her speech, exploring its cultural and historical meaning. Bing Xu, the well-known designer and founder of the shoe label Bingxu shared with us the international style symbols in his perspective, visualizing the common topic of style.

As part of the conference, the conversations were joyful and interactive. Lv Yan, international super model and the founder of brand COMME MOI; Leaf Greener, column writer, creative consultant and the founder of digital zine LEAF; Fashion blogger “Mr. Bao”; Yu Cong, photographer, director and the founder of The New Studio; Wang Tao, founder, CEO and design director of the brand TAORAY WANG; Bonnie Chen, international super model and co-producer of the reality show I, Supermodel shared their thoughts on the term “style” from different perspectives. For the first time, the creative teams of T magazine in 3 countries opened up a conversation towards creativity, the definition of style and the aesthetic of the magazine. Besides, the guests presented in the conference also included the forum’s promotion ambassador, actor and singer Mr. Li Yifeng, actress Dong Jie, actress Qi Xi, fashion host Li Siyu and more. Together they pushed the charm of celebrities and style icons to a more popular level.

Showcasing The Urban Spirit And The Imprint of The Era
T reflects the world of fashion from a multi-dimensional perspective. The magazine does not simply point out the current trends, but also explains the reason behind the cultural transformation in a thoughtful way. Holding the first ever International Style Conference has its profound meaning. By sharing professional experiences and personal ideas of the present and the future of the industry, guests from both China and other regions have shed light on the theme Style. Also, when discussing the concept of the style among the guests from various countries, we are at the same time shaping and revealing our own style to the world.

Style is the imprint of an era; it’s also a way of thinking. However, it is still bound closely with beauty. The pursuit of beauty surpasses the mundane every day routine and gives life a more opulent meaning. The elements it involves are not always necessary in our everyday life, but it is such non-essentials that carry the depth of a city, showcase our personal lifestyle and create cultural experiences, mirroring the characteristics of the era that we live in.

The success of the conference is an excellent homage to the unique spirit of Chengdu, it speaks a powerful voice that express a very contemporary trend of the Chinese society. Moreover, it is also a creative movement that contributes to the Chinese and also global cultural and creativity industry.

INTERNATIONAL STYLE CONFERENCE
Curated by T China this June, in cooperation with Chengdu International Finance Square (Chengdu IFS), the first International Style Conference was held in Chengdu. The conference inherits the constant editing philosophy of T magazine —— to explore and discover the cultural development, the commercial insights, the craftsmanship behind style and fashion topics; root in the Chinese local markets; curate in-depth discussion on Chinese consuming patterns and the cultural background behind; provide interdisciplinary platforms where national and international industry leaders can communicate on.

T China
Born in New York in 2004, T magazine is an international publication focusing on culture, fashion and lifestyle, known for its professionalism in reporting and extraordinary publishing quality. Since its establishment, T has always focused on the transformation of aesthetics and societies. It also discovers and interprets the profound meaning behind the cultural transformation in a thoughtful way.

Established in 2015, T China is the only Chinese publication that covers lifestyle through a combination of comprehensive perspective and in-depth report. It stands apart from the dull mainstream media as well as the fragmented mass media, taking an unique place in the market.

Chengdu International Finance Square (Chengdu IFS)
Chengdu International Finance Square (Chengdu IFS) is located in the central business district of Hongxing Road, a prime location in Chengdu, where the city’s two most prosperous main roads (Hongxing Road and Dacisi Road) intersect. It is an urban complex with a total construction area of over 760,000 square-meters, including a 210,000 square-meters flagship shopping center, a 291,000 square-meter Grade A office building, the Niccolo Hotel with 230 guest rooms, and the IFS Residences , a high-end serviced residence covering 76,000 square-meters. Due to its global leading architectural design, Chengdu IFS won the VIVA Design & Development award presented by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) in 2016, thus making itself one of the first Chinese commercial real estate projects with a top global honor.

China Media Capital (CMC)
China Media Capital is China’s leading investment and operating group in media and cultural industry. It faces the global market and it has two platforms under its name: CMC Fund (The first fund dedicated to the investment of culture industry in China approved by the National Development and Reform Commission) and CMC Holdings, expansing across equity investment fund in CNY, U.S dollar markets, cultural investment groups, films and entertainment investment funds, intellectual properties, cultural estates and more. It has multiple investment platforms and physical entities in CNY and U.S dollar markets, focusing on media, entertainment, Internet, mobile and lifestyles.

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