Casimiro PT/Shutterstock.com - Alibaba Tmall
Casimiro PT/Shutterstock.com

On Wednesday, Alibaba announced a partnership with New York Fashion Week (NYFW). In association with brand management company Suntchi, the collaboration will help US brands reach China’s massive market for the first time while increasing the presence of Chinese designers at fashion week.

As a highlight of the partnership, Alibaba will host a “See Now, Buy Now” fashion show on its Tmall platform showcasing NYFW staples including Opening Ceremony, Robert Geller in an event in October preceding its massively popular shopping festival, Single’s Day, on November 11. Alibaba says the event will help New York designers gain “first-time exposure” to over half-a-billion consumers visiting Alibaba’s platforms. 

For its part, next September, NYFW will select Chinese designers from Alibaba’s “See Now, Buy Now” fashion show to be included into its new initiative, “NYFW: China Day.” Alibaba has yet to announce which Chinese designers will be included.

The partnership sets Alibaba apart from its longtime rival, JD.com, which partnered this year with Philip Lim for his fashion show.

Alibaba’s “See Now, Buy Now” fashion show, which debuted in 2016, has already attracted many fashion labels. In last year’s show, 80 different brands attended, including Adidas, Gap, Paul Smith and Guerlain. The partnership with NYFW will likely act as a high-value endorsement for Alibaba to persuade more high-end fashion brands to come on board, which is a big plus for its efforts to reshape its image into one that’s more fashion-forward, and intensify its race with JD to become the premier fashion e-tailer in China.

On the other side of the partnership, the signing on of NYFW with Alibaba signals the ever-changing role of the fashion show, especially considering the high cost of staging one, and the recent wave of dropouts from the NYFW schedule.

“It’s very painful to spend money on fashion shows,” said Cliff Moskowitz, whose firm owns a controlling stake in Jason Wu. “If you haven’t found the right investor, it’s hard to make them appreciate what they do.”

Could the partnership with Alibaba be a jackpot for brands to further capitalise on fashion shows or do the brands risk over-commercialising their image? What’s certain is that Chinese consumers not only have strong consumption power, but are also more accustomed to buying online than Western shoppers.

By Rachel Zheng.

This article was originally published on Jing Daily, a Fashion & Mash content partner.