Xiamen has designs as nation's fashion hub
When the Chinese website of The New York Times published an opinion piece last year asking if Xiamen is China's answer to Antwerp, Europe's avant-garde fashion hub, some nodded, while others doubted.
The city was quick to react, with the first Xiamen International Fashion Week, an extension of the previous Xiamen fashion festival that opened on Thursday.
As shown by the change of its name, this year's event will feature more industry sectors, as well as international participants.
Fashion is now part of the municipal strategy as the city seeks to restructure its economy and upgrade industries, organizers say.
"Chinese customers tend to look up to Western luxury brands," said Ji Wenbo, president of Xiamen International Fashion Week Organization Committee. "We hope that Xiamen Fashion Week could explore a way to inherit and innovate on our own tradition." Ji said he hopes the fashion week could be a catalyst for the city's fashion industry.
Xiamen is home to known local designers including Zeng Fengfei and Ji Wenbo. It is also home to a group of young designers including Shangguan Zhe, Liu Min, Yu Jing, Wan Yifang, Liu Xiaolu and Yu Jing.
The city has also been chosen as the location for branches and headquarters of international and domestic fashion brands such as Ports, Jorya, Joeone, Septwolves and Anta.
One of the first Chinese cities to open up to the outside world, the city is known as a hybrid of the local Minnan culture and Western influences.
Both Central Saint Martins in the UK and the Red Dot Award in Germany have launched collaborations with the city.
The culture and creative industry in Xiamen in 2014 was valued at 100 billion yuan ($15.64 billion), ranking after finance as the second-biggest service industry in the city. The revenue of the apparel industry totaled $35 billion last year.
The opening day featured a China/Korea Fashion Designers Brands & Fabrics B2B Meeting, a trade fair between Chinese and Korean fashion designers and brands.
Dozens of Chinese and Korean textile manufacturers are showcasing their products at the weeklong fair.
During the meeting, Xiamen's Siming district and the South Korean Gyeonggi-do Textile Industry Association signed a memorandum of understanding to foster further cooperation by hosting exchange events for Chinese and South Korean designers and textile makers every year.
Major Chinese media corporation Trends Media Group launched a three-year strategic cooperation with Xiamen in terms of its fashion industry, city image and talent nurturing.
The collaboration launched with an awards gala on Nov 28. The City Trends Awards ceremony introduced this year's China Trends Index, which provides an insight into the Chinese fashion industry.
Xiamen was crowned by Trends as one of the Fashion and Culture cities of the year, along with Chengdu and Shenzhen.
The Xiamen International Fashion Forum also gathered luminaries from the fashion and design circles to discuss how Xiamen can develop into a true fashion hub.
Anne Chapelle, CEO and owner of the Ann Demulemeester and Haider Ackermann brands, said Xiamen feels like Antwerp to her.
"Here you have everything to grow art. ... You have to be proud of where you are from," she said.
Hong Huang, fashion publisher and founder of Chinese multibrand fashion boutique BNC, says Xiamen is a city where local Chinese designers can flourish.
"Western aesthetics have long been the mainstream of our society," she said. "Xiamen is a city where the original street scene and culture have been well preserved. This is likely to be a city where Chinese designers will finally find their own fashion language."