To kick off this year’s Taobao Maker Festival—Alibaba’s annual celebration of China’s young creatives—20 fashion designers showcased their newest collections in a “See Now, Buy Now” show at Hangzhou’s West Lake Thursday night.
For the first time, the Lake’s picturesque “Broken Bridge” was transformed into a high-fashion runway. The bridge is best known for its role in Madame White Snake, a classic Chinese movie about two star-crossed lovers.
The lineup of participating designers included some of China’s leading fashion innovators, such as Xiamen-based Wan Yi Fang and her Wan Yifang’s womenswear brand, Alex Liu’s experimental fashion label Alexstorm and Momo Wang’s Museum of Friendship brand. About 100 models strutted across the bridge, and the floating catwalk beneath it, under dazzling lights and state-of-the-art effects, including live music and dance performances throughout the hour-long show.
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Jack Ma, Alibaba Group’s executive chairman, made an appearance. So, too, did celebrity guests, including Cai Xukun, a member of popular Chinese boy band Nine Percent, and the stars of a popular local TV drama, Meteor Garden.
Tapping Alibaba’s See Now, Buy Now technology, the designers were able to present, and instantly offer, a selection of garments to the more than half-billion shoppers visiting Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms. The show was also available via livestream on Taobao and video-streaming site Youku.
“Taobao helps ignite the creativity of designers, as well as meet consumers’ demands for quality, individuality and beauty. From meeting demands to creating demands, Taobao has been witness to the rising influence of original designers among the new generation of consumers, shaping their trends and tastes,” said Jiang Fan, president of Taobao.
For the British-trained, Hong Kong-born Makin Ma, Thursday night was extra special. Not only he was one of the designers selected to participate in the show, but his namesake brand also debuted on Taobao on the same day. Select pieces he showcased on the runway can be purchased on the platform.
“This is the first time our brand is doing ‘See Now, Buy Now’ on the catwalk, so it’s very exciting. Once the show is on, we only have to press a button and everything will go online, for people to see the catwalk and buy at the same time,” said Ma. “Thanks to Taobao, we have this chance to launch in a quite nice way.”
Newly graduated designer Zhu Yi, whose brand Anno Mundi also hit the runway, said, “Taobao has always provided young designers with the richest and most-fertile soil to grow their brands.”
The show underscored Alibaba’s commitment to foster young Chinese talent, the company said. Alibaba has rolled out a series of initiatives aimed at cultivating homegrown indie designers, catering to young consumers’ growing appetite for brands that are different and offbeat. On Monday, Alibaba’s B2C shopping site, Tmall, brought three designer labels to debut their spring-summer 2019 collections at New York Fashion Week.
Taobao has also been providing marketing and sales resources for designers and artisans through annual fashion-forward sales campaigns, such as iFashion Week, or dedicated channels, such as Qiangdiao, which translates to “style” in Mandarin. Launched in 2013, Qiangdiao now counts over 300 original designers.
To date, more than 50,000 designer-entrepreneurs have opened stores on Taobao. Among them, 44% were born after 1985 and up to a third were born after 1990, the e-commerce platform said.