LDC x CHINA FASHION WEEK
BY REBECCA MORTER
In March 2020, COVID put a firm stop to all our well-laid plans. All the preparation and planning now out the window. The world of digital had other plans, and so we entered the new online era. Everyone, whether we like it or not, stepped into a new world with new possibilities.
October 2019, our Visual Merchandiser and I packed up eight suitcases full of six brand new designers collections, marketing materials and everything absolutely “essential” for our upcoming pop-up store across Shanghai Fashion Week. After an uber to the airport, an eleven-hour flight, another uber to our accommodation, quick rest and then another uber to the location for an imminent setup, we were ready to take on the Chinese market!
Our little space saw thousands of local shoppers! Three out of six designers flew over and spent the days amid blissful chaos of constant and adrenaline rushing sales, press appointments, shoppers trying on all the collections and keeping us on our toes. We loved every minute of it, the buzz, the culture, the new conversations (albeit language barriers). We were introducing the locals to our unique independent brands and getting a massive kick out of the experience of actually being on the ground, interacting, meeting and sharing stories with a new pool of customers. We learnt a considerable amount, made valuable new connections, discussed plans, viewed spaces; we knew we would be back. Our pilot pop up was a success; April 2020 was firmly marked in the diary for our return.
In March 2020, COVID put a firm stop to all our well-laid plans. All the preparation and planning now out the window. We postponed until better days, and that was that.
No more focus on China until the world became safe again, and international travel could resume. But of course, we couldn't have been more wrong. The world of digital had other plans, and so we entered the new online era …
Everyone, whether we like it or not, stepped into a new world with new possibilities. Our events went digital; our pop-ups went digital, and our sales associates took to Instagram live and Zoom to interact with shoppers. The biggest takeaway - those once existing barriers so tall and thick due to geography- were suddenly gone.
Our events, which usually had an 80% London attendees base, suddenly became open, accessible and available to anyone anywhere in the world. We had people from Ukraine, Russia, Germany, France and the USA beginning to dial in to participate!
It was becoming evident that whilst digital makes keeping our relationships more challenging; it has made business and expansion much more inclusive and accessible.
With China Fashion Week right around the corner, I am excited to announce the Lone Design Club X China Fashion Week Showcase. Once a draw out travel opportunity, now a simple video opportunity and live stream process means we and our brands can reach millions of shoppers across China. If that small store saw 3 thousand or so visitors, this digital launch will see millions.
Over three days, LDC will showcase a select four independent, conscious designers to leading Chinese industry, press and shoppers via pre-recorded fashion films and video interviews with the founders. Customers will be able to click exclusive, one-off or limited new items from the showcase and purchase directly from the Lone Design Club site. Our usually hyper-local, focused and customer engagement driven pop-ups will be available to all. With a short two week lead time, we would never have been able to orchestrate such a partnership and launch in the physical, but with the beauty of digital and this new inclusive and accessible world, the sky really is the limit.
Of course, that wonderful experience of meeting shoppers in person, talking them through each product face to face, its story, the designer’s inspiration and techniques, won’t happen…. But in the meantime, we have live stream video shopping for that.
The beauty of the hyper-local, in-store experience is the intensely focused connection, and service one gets. It generally means better engagement and interaction because you are in a room together. As the seller, we can do our job; we can show off the products, talk in person, control the environment, smell, and lighting - THE EXPERIENCE. We can control and perfect this end to end. We can't do this digitally...yet.
What we can do is reach those we never before thought we could, without even moving from our own home. That long and tedious trip to China, I recalled now, seems questionable. Do I need to do this to build my business in China? Or does this new world of easy access, lower barrier to international expansion with a more inclusive approach mean there's a new alternative? Yes, we could have done this pre-covid, but the fact remains that the opportunity wasn't there; the customers’ appetite and understanding of the digital in this way weren’t there.
Yes, our e-commerce can reach Chinese customers and does, but it’s not the same. Or at least it wasn't pre-covid with limited e-commerce options and little appetite, where tourists would come to us here in London. Now we can and are part of this market in a whole new way. I firmly believe these barriers are coming down as the world becomes more accessible and more open through digital innovations and curiosity.
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