Taobao trend-setters

Source:Global Times - Bund Pictorial Published: 2013-9-17 18:48:01

Taobao exhibits designs at the 2013 Shanghai Fall/Winter Fashion Week in April. Photo: IC

Taobao exhibits designs at the 2013 Shanghai Fall/Winter Fashion Week in April. Photo: IC

As more and more people choose to buy their clothes online, a number of domestic designers are standing out and building their niche through Taobao, China's biggest online shopping platform.

With bright and diverse personalities showing through in their designs, these young store owners seize the e-commerce opportunities and some have transformed quickly from unknown shops to brands with independent design and production teams.

Grass-roots brands go trendy

One highlight of this year's Shanghai Fashion Week was the special display of women's clothing brands from Taobao, which allowed 10 brands, including AMII, 7GeGe and LoveFish, to show their creative and imaginative new pieces.

These designs, integrating many fashion elements and styles, convey designers' unique takes on the modern woman. They added vitality and diversity to the fashion stage and demonstrated the potential of domestic labels.

Last year, six domestic Taobao brands, including Artka, 7GeGe, Cher M. and ZRMMUR, also wowed fashion circles at Shanghai Fashion Week.

Some designers are able to walk in as small, online-only shops and walk out onto the larger, global fashion stage.

Many Taobao brands, though not household names, have a large number of online devotees. The variety of designs on Taobao can exceed offline offerings. The personalized designs and sensitivity to fashion attracts more and more buyers.

Statistics from show that domestic designs have rapidly taken up the share of its market for women's clothing from 2009 to 2011, with its turnover rising from 13 percent to 40 percent. And the current top 10 brands of women's clothing are almost all homegrown.

An increasing number of young people are realizing their design dreams through Taobao, and these independent designers are now also starting to influence today's fashions.


Taobao style is hard to generalize. But the multitude of different shops do have one thing in common: all convey a strong sense of personal style.

Many online shop owners, with great passion for fashion, began their brands by being their own models and matching clothes according to their tastes, and thus attracted a group of netizens with the same taste.

SYM was established by Wingfree, who started out in the fashion business by altering and matching secondhand clothing to her liking, and eventually developed her style. She has also been her own model until about a year ago, when she decided to concentrate on design duties.

Wingfree's designs bear a unique, artistic touch, blending elements of classical Chinese and Western culture for an elegant, classic look. Now she usually sells 150 to 200 pieces a day, with the best-selling ones reaching sales numbers of more than 1,000, according to Bund Pictorial magazine.

FANCY SH!T is a domestic brand on Taobao that follows the route of simple, modern-looking urban chic with fine details. It is just like its designer, Avivi, a fashionable Shanghai girl with a strong personality.

Attracted by the free platform Taobao presents, Avivi gave up her job as a designer in a company in 2009 and created her own brand. As Bund Pictorial reported, her clothing is priced between 200 yuan and 1,500 yuan ($33 to $245) - not competitive price points on Taobao. But every one of her new designs sells out quickly, due to novel designs and her personal charm.

Young designers on Taobao are sensitive to fashion trends and consumers' demands, and can make changes quickly. Fashion then becomes the brainchild of interaction between designers and consumers.

Low threshold, huge market

Many young people with design aspirations turn to online market platforms because they are inclusive and have lower cost thresholds, which allow them, and even laymen, to explore their passion and talent in fashion.

Artka, a brand that appeared on the catwalk of last year's Shanghai Fashion Week, originated from its designer Aka's wish to make a big skirt. Aka studied an unrelated major at college. As reported, she wanted to make a big, beautiful skirt for herself in the summer of 2005, and found she couldn't stop designing after that.

Shangguan Zhe, another young designer, studied visual communications and advertising in college. He established Sankuanz in 2006 and started to sell his designs in 2007.

"I chose online marketing as the main channel, because e-business is new and of great market potential. Besides, the consumers of Sankuanz basically match the e-commerce group," Shangguan said in an interview.

Compared to offline platforms, online shopping boasts a more open market and larger consumer force. As a result, many brands can quickly find their niche following online.

Besides, unlike traditional brands that usually have an idea-to-garment period of half to one year, a piece done by a small brand needs only a week or half a month. The fast pace allows these boutiques to capture the dynamic pulse of fashion more quickly. 

However, Taobao is also a place that mingles the good with the bad, which not only bothers the consumers but also is a headache for those selling high-end goods.

Another problem is plagiarism. Nie Yurong, the designer for Uare, a popular Taobao brand, said that sometimes it is hard to find out who copies whom.

"We hope Taobao will act according to measures that protect the originality of products," she told Bund Pictorial.

But the designers all agree that only those who persist in their unique brands can achieve lasting success.

Meanwhile, though started low, some popular brands like Uare and SYM are developing middle and high-end products. This is consistent with Taobao users' changing attitudes toward the platform. After 10 years' development, people begin to believe that this platform could present quality products.

"More importantly, it will show that independent brands on Taobao can also produce middle and high-end original products," Nie said.

In the near future, it may hard to define Taobao fashion as small and homegrown.

Global Times - Bund Pictorial

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