To help introduce cutting-edge fashion to Chinese consumers, Alibaba Group is giving up-and-coming designers from State University of New York’s famed Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) a chance to strut their stuff on the world’s largest virtual catwalk: Alibaba’s giant Taobao Marketplace shopping website.
Aug. 20-26, original fall/winter fashion items from five recent FIT graduates will be featured for sale on Taobao at prices ranging from RMB 799 ($125) to RMB 6,800 ($1,063). To provide designers with added support, Taobao will partner with a Chinese factory to produce larger quantities of designers’ outfits that draw sufficient orders during an Aug. 20-23 presale period. Taobao is charging no commissions for sales.
The program is part of Taobao New Wave Week, the website’s twice-yearly marketing campaign to promote original and trendy designs among young consumers and inspire them to pursue their individuality. Another some 100 promising designers are also participating in the campaign, in addition to the five FIT graduates.
“Through Taobao New Wave Week, we hope to give Chinese consumers access to one-of-a-kind designer fashion items that are not available elsewhere,” said Taobao Marketplace Director of Marketing Xia Ji. He added that the campaign enables new designers “to embark on production in small quantities, leveraging Alibaba’s flexible supply chain resources, and gradually build their own brands and supply chain.”
Jean Marc Rejaud, a professor at FIT, said the Taobao program offers designers an “opportunity to kick start their careers in fashion by being able to market and sell their designs through Alibaba, the world-biggest e-commerce platform, on what I believe will soon be the number one fashion market in the world–China–at no cost, and at no risk.”
According to a recent report by Fung Business Intelligence Centre, China’s apparel market remains one of the fastest growing in the world, with strong growth of online retail and fast fashion. The report said “concept stores” bringing together lesser-known designers and selling unique items are gaining popularity in China, particularly in big cities, where consumers are increasingly favoring brands with clothes emphasizing personal style and individuality. The report cited a prediction from Euromonitor that China will overtake the U.S. and become the world’s largest apparel market by 2017.
Alibaba’s China retail marketplaces, Taobao, Tmall.com and Juhuasuan, are the country’s largest shopping sites with a combined 367 million annual active buyers in the 12 months ended June 30.