Among these rising fashion capitals are Hangzhou, Suzhou, Haikou, Xiamen, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Shanghai. The ranking explores the reasons behind the ascent of these cities and their contributions to China’s rapidly evolving fashion landscape.
In an urban economic development context, fashion is not only a cultural label but also represents economic potential, a key engine of urban renewal, and a driver of high-quality regional development. China’s fashion industry has witnessed remarkable growth and transformation over the past decade. As the country’s economy boomed and consumer spending power increased, Chinese cities have emerged as global fashion destinations, home to the latest flagships, and creative hubs for a new generation of fashion designers and up-and-coming brands. Beyond established fashion hubs like Beijing and Shanghai, a new wave of fashion cities is rising, characterized by their cultural power, integration of digital technology, commitment to sustainable development, and nurturing of young talents.
After launching its Asian Fashion Cities Directory covering the region’s rising fashion capitals, from Mumbai to Seoul, WWD has launched the WWD China City Power 2023 — China’s New Fashion Capitals Vitality Ranking in Hangzhou.
In cooperation with PWC and a panel of experts from investment companies, academia and industry, the ranking focused on different dimensions developed by PWC — including intellectual capital, technological innovation and digitalization, regional importance, urban resilience, transportation planning, sustainability, cultural life, economic impact, cost and business environment — to define their actual power and growth potential. Adding a city fashion vitality index, including the number of store openings of international brands and the establishment of homegrown brands, fashion education institutions, support for creative industries and other metrics, and a regional development vitality index, focusing on resource distribution and infrastructure, the list represents the most vibrant markets in China with the highest growth potential for the years to come.
Here, a breakdown of the list:
During the ’20s and ’30s, Shanghai was already a global fashion capital. With China’s opening it became the first destination for international luxury brands, from Hermès to Chanel and Louis Vuitton, to set up their flagships in China. Along with the country’s economic development, Shanghai not only assumed the role of an important market for international brands but also became a window for the world to understand China’s fashion.
Today, Shanghai is not only home to China’s top fashion industry events, including the China International Import Expo (CIIE) to be held in early November, the World Design Cities Conference (WDCC), and Shanghai Fashion Week, it also contains the country’s most vibrant shopping districts, from Nanjing West Road, where most international luxury brands have flagships, to “Jufuchang” a bohemian quarter in the French Concession and a hot spot of the local fashion design scene. Being one of China’s most important harbor cities, Shanghai’s style is characterized by the fusion of Chinese and Western fashion and culture. Continuously attracting designers and design institutions, Shanghai is leading local fashion trends.
The diversity of Shanghai’s consumers has also given strong impetus to the city’s fashion consumption. At the same time, the city’s leading role in digitalization and sustainability continue to reinforce its position as China’s fashion capital.
Known for its picturesque landscapes and rich history, Hangzhou has also emerged as a fashion hub. The city’s connection to traditional Chinese craftsmanship, particularly in silk production, has been integral to its fashion identity. Over the last years, Hangzhou’s fashion culture has developed in its own way. Once the capital of the Song Dynasty, Hangzhou is now touted as one of the most livable cities in China. As the core area of the Zhejiang provincial capital, Shangcheng District is not only the epitome of Hangzhou’s position as a new fashion capital, but also representative of the new power and vitality of the city in terms of urban renewal and regional development.
Shangcheng District, with its “one district and three centers” strategy, has been boosting the city’s importance, becoming a booming fashion hot spot with the Hubin and Qingbo business area by Hangzhou’s famous West Lake, the neighborhood of the four imperial academies and the iconic Phoenix Hill.
Hangzhou is also one of the leading fashion design innovation centers with Qianjiang New City, and the area around the Sijiqing Clothing Market, China’s leading clothing street. The 1.6-kilometer-long street is lined with more than 20 wholesale markets that house an estimated 15,000 vendors. Hangzhou has been striving to build the nation’s top digital economy there and stands as one of China’s smartest cities. Today Hangzhou is the epicenter of China’s e-commerce and livestreaming with Hangzhou Qiantang Smart City and other efforts. With favorable policies toward businesses, Hangzhou has become a fertile ground for technological innovation, resulting in a number of leading digital fashion enterprises.
Renowned for its exquisite silk and intricate embroidery, Suzhou has been a fashion center for centuries. From the “world’s largest industrial city” to a place where high-end businesses and luxury brands compete for affluent consumers, Suzhou’s radical transformation is typical of China’s new fashion capitals — a long-standing cultural history combined with a wave of strong economic growth and modernization and strong consumption.
Suzhou is now ranked seventh and sixth out of 368 cities in China in terms of the number of shopping centers and commercial value, respectively. The city ranks second in the country in terms of commercial space per capita, after Shanghai. However, the number of premium and luxury brands in Suzhou is much lower than in cities such as Hangzhou and Nanjing, signaling strong unmet demand for high-end consumption and potential opportunities for fashion and luxury brands and premium businesses. With the recent opening of luxury retail projects like Yanlord Cangjie which encompasses luxury retail, public spaces, art and culture, Suzhou is poised to unleash more potential in coming years.
As the fashion capital of southwest China, Chengdu is one of the most popular new fashion cities due to its strong consumption, huge business potential, strong brand attraction, unique innovation atmosphere and talent attraction.
In 2023, Chengdu has been a must-stop for almost all international brand executives visiting China, from LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s Bernard Arnault and his team to Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook. Chengdu is famous for its rich cultural heritage, like the Wuhou Ancestral Temple, and is home to a vibrant luxury and fashion retail sector with IFS, Taikoo Li, and the recently opened SKP mall.
Chengdu’s commitment to promoting young talent is evident through various fashion incubators, design competitions, and industry collaborations. As a result, the city has witnessed rapid development with the Chunxi International Fashion Consumer Center in the Jinjiang District at its heart. Throughout China and Asia, Chengdu has become a destination for young fashionable consumers.
Xiamen, located on the southern coast of China, has been a key trade hub since the 1500s. In recent years this seaside city has developed a burgeoning fashion, design and art scene. It is home to many of China’s top fashion companies like Anta and Septwolves, and also features a thriving local design scene, including Sankuanz to Ms. Min, Deepmoss, and Vega Wang.
Xiamen launched its own fashion week in 2015 which serves as a platform for young talent to gain exposure and connect with industry professionals. From designers to brands or enterprises, from products to technologies or new industry concepts, Xiamen has become a place where China’s fashion is set to continue to emerge.
The capital of China’s version of Hawaii is emerging on the fashion map with the transformation of the island province into the world’s largest free trade port. The Hainan Provincial Government’s 14th Five-Year Plan estimates Hainan’s duty-free market will grow tenfold between 2020 and 2025 to reach $46.5 billion and become one of the world’s largest travel retail locations. So far Haikou has set up a number of new world-class leisure and shopping landmarks. In 2023, Louis Vuitton entered the Hainan market to settle in Haikou. Since 2021 the city is also home to the China International Consumer Products Expo, also known as Hainan Expo, showcasing more than 3,300 brands from China and abroad with luxury and fashion companies such as Kering, Richemont, and Burberry, and beauty conglomerates such as L’Oréal, Shiseido, Estée Lauder and Coty, showcasing their commitment to the city’s duty-free business.
Guangzhou has been an important port for China’s foreign trade for more than 2,000 years and was the starting point of the nation’s Maritime Silk Road. Like Shanghai, it has been a place where Chinese and foreign cultures have mingled since ancient times.
The city’s well-established textile and garment industry has provided a strong foundation for its fashion sector. Today, Guangzhou is the center of one of the most vibrant fashion industrial clusters located around the city, with companies operating in apparel, leather goods, jewelry, cosmetics, and cross-border e-commerce, among others. Guangzhou has been leading in its commitments to green manufacturing and the digital upgrading of the supply chain, boosting top R&D facilities.
As an international trade and transportation hub, its location in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and the Pan-Pearl River Delta Economic Zone makes it a major player in the international fashion business, including industry events such as the Canton Fair with more than 35,000 exhibitors.
The rise of these cities as fashion capitals in China reflects the country’s growing influence on the global industry scene. Moreover, support from local governments, fashion institutions, and industry associations has been instrumental in nurturing and promoting the growth of these cities’ fashion sectors. Investments in fashion infrastructure, innovation, digitalization, green practices and the establishment of incubators, and the organization of fashion weeks and events have further boosted their visibility and attractiveness. Together with a burgeoning middle class and increasing spending power, they are poised to make significant contributions to the global fashion landscape in years to come.