Alibaba partners with New York Fashion Week, as China’s influence on global fashion expands

Shanghai-based Taoray Wang will be getting some more company from China at New York Fashion Week.
Shanghai-based Taoray Wang will be getting some more company from China at New York Fashion Week.
Image: EPA-EFE/Alba Vigaray
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New York Fashion Week and China are cozying up to each other, thanks to a new partnership between NYFW: The Shows, which is the part of NYFW managed by entertainment giant IMG, and China’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba. The deal will introduce New York labels to a giant new Chinese audience, while also increasing the already-strong presence of Chinese talent at the internationally watched New York shows.

As part of the arrangement, Alibaba will feature some NYFW regulars, including Opening Ceremony and Robert Geller, in a shoppable, “see-now buy-now” fashion show hosted on Tmall, Alibaba’s business-to-consumer platform. The show will be part of the run up to China’s incredibly massive online shopping holiday, Single’s Day, which takes place on Nov. 11. Alibaba says it live streamed its debut Single’s Day fashion show last year to 7 million viewers, and that the New York designers “will gain first-time exposure to the more than half a billion consumers visiting Alibaba’s platforms.”

Then, in September 2018, New York Fashion Week will introduce “NYFW: China Day” to highlight Chinese designers selected from Tmall’s 2017 “see-now buy-now” show. Alibaba hasn’t yet announced which designers might be included, and additional details on exactly what “NYFW: China Day” will entail weren’t available.

In any case, the event should bolster China’s growing presence in the New York fashion world. While the major European fashion weeks are still light on Chinese names, New York has become an important international platform for many Chinese designers, as the publication Jing Daily recently pointed out. Shanghai-based Taoray Wang, for instance, has become a fixture on the NYFW schedule, developing a US following that includes Tiffany Trump, daughter of US president Donald Trump and a prominent fan of Wang’s. In February, the Council of Fashion Designers of America even signed an agreement with Chinese entertainment firm Suntchi—also involved in the new Alibaba deal—to help along the exchange of fashion business between the two countries.

Chinese design students have also become common in New York, at colleges such as Parsons School of Design, one of the world’s top fashion schools. Often these students will graduate and get jobs in the New York fashion industry on an Optional Practical Training visa, something they can’t always do in the UK, making New York an attractive place to study and creating a pipeline for Chinese talent into the industry. For instance, Calvin Luo, who moved to New York from China to attend Parsons and subsequently launched his own label, showed his latest women’s collection at NYFW yesterday (Sep. 12). The trend could grow in the near future, as the Council of Fashion Designers of America has called for more visas allowing immigrants to enter the US fashion industry.

At the same time, US fashion brands are looking increasingly to China, where many in the rapidly expanding middle class are seeking out their first tastes of international fashion. The new Alibaba deal aims to satisfy them, and gives Jack Ma, the company’s founder and CEO, something else to dance about.

An earlier version of this story listed the date of Single’s Day as Oct. 11 instead of Nov. 11.