China now has the highest number of self-made female billionaires in the world. The Hunrun Global Rich List 2018 puts it at 140 - three quarters more than any other country. There are, however, surprisingly low numbers of women in leadership roles despite high labour force participation - women now contribute 41% to China’s GDP - and rises in domestic spend across typically female categories according to nonprofit Catalyst.
As the #MeToo movement begins to take hold on the mainland, it is clear that women in China still face the same challenges as their counterparts do the world over: millions still face labels such as ‘left-over’ and continue to experience unacceptable pressures and stigma on account of their gender.
Notwithstanding such challenges, it is notable that the majority of businesses powering Shanghai Fashion Week are either founded or led by women. As the event approaches, ORDRE provides an overview of some of the key figures shaping the Chinese fashion industry.
Shanghai Fashion Week began in 2003, and Xiaolei Lv, or ‘Madame Lu’ as she is more commonly known, has been a driving force in its organising committee since the very start. In 2006, she led the group to take the unprecedented step of promoting original, local talent. Now the event is known both in China and globally as a dynamic hotbed of Chinese creatives as well as a powerhouse for commercial domestic brands.
One her mission to rebrand Shanghai Fashion Week, Madame Lu approached retailers Dong Liang to develop a separate platform specifically for showcasing the country’s emerging designers. Branded Labelhood, this retailing and showcasing platform helmed by Tasha Liu presents the boldest new voices China has to offer, attracting retailers, influencers and media. Liu herself appears on countless panels and is a widely-respected fashion mentor on the mainland.
Founded in 2016 by Ying Zhang, Not SHOWROOM is now a multi-platform business which takes brands from inception to global markets. Clients include Haizhen Wang and BoF China Prize nominees Pronounce, while her showcasing platform Xcommons features Ximon Lee and Andrea Jiapei Li. Zhang recently collaborated with Premier Class in a cross-cultural exchange of talent, promoting local Chinese brands at Paris Fashion Week whilst introducing French brands to the Chinese market.
Yuan Yuan Jin
Started in 2008, YYO Communications was the first platform of its kind to develop digital and entertainment creatives in China. The leading agency, fronted by Yuan Yuan Jin, is now a strategic partner of Shanghai Fashion Week, managing all image content for the event alongside the production of its daily Journal supplement. The recently launched initiative YYO Foundation nurtures young creative talents in China.
Investor and entrepreneur Wendy Yu began Yu Holdings in 2017 to strengthen ties across fashion, the arts, business and tech. The company has invested in London-based brand Mary Katrantzou and established a curatorial endowment at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The BoF China Prize launched in partnership with Yu Holdings last year and the winner will be announced during this season’s Shanghai Fashion Week.
Yeli Gu has built Ontime showroom into one of fashion week’s most forward-thinking integrated B2B marketplaces for both domestic and international buyers. A co-production with Aroma Xie now entering its 10th season, Ontime has found a fitting home in its new location at the West Bund Art Centre. This season it hosts events and collaborations from international companies like Tranoï and the BFC.
Multitasking across a variety of roles which range from editor to curator, Shaway Yeh has established herself as one of China’s leading cultural tastemakers and KOLs. The former editorial director of Modern Weekly has recently set her sights on tackling the issue of sustainability. By hosting pioneering conferences during fashion week her agency is initiating tangible change among Chinese designers and fashion companies.
Operating since 2014, Zemira Xu’s PR company DIA Communications managed a number of global Chinese fashion events before launching Tube Showroom in 2015 at Mode Shanghai, the fashion tradeshow. Artfully curated, Tube Showroom works with a selection of China’s most innovative independent designers: bestsellers include Short Sentence and the BoF China Prize-nominated menswear brand Staff Only.