Editors’ letter

Right now, it feels like our lives are collectively in limbo, while in a continuous state of change. Much of the world is static, yet in flux. And the shifts occurring in the fashion industry feel as liberating and long overdue as they do nebulous and unpredictable. In particular, there seems to be an acute sense of ‘middle space’ currently emerging from the blurring of physical and digital, consumer and creator, cultural and commercial, local and global.

In February this year, it was reported that SKP Beijing had become the highest-performing luxury department store in the world, overtaking longtime leader Harrods. The news highlighted what is arguably the defining transition (pre- and post-pandemic) for the future of the global luxury fashion market: Chinese consumer appetite and purchasing power is now sustaining the profitability of Western brands. In conversation with one of this issue’s cover stars, SKP’s chairman and founder Mr Ji (page 42), designer Jonathan Anderson puts it more bluntly: ‘In earlier periods, we [Western brands] dictated what Chinese consumers wanted, whereas now they are telling us what they want. This is clearly going to initiate a fascinating moment for fashion in general. The power has shifted.’

How this all plays out remains to be seen. While part of a far wider evolution in geopolitics, society, economy and, yes, power, these changes do throw up some pertinent questions for the (Western) world of fashion: how might this shift affect the face and fortunes of Europe’s luxury conglomerates? Will it influence fashion’s stylistic decisions, its systems and structures, or indeed, its ethics? When will we see internationally recognized Chinese brands? In fact, will geographic or cultural provenance even continue to hold the same value, and with it the respective preconceptions we still hold about, say, Made in Italy or Made in China?

In Mr Ji’s other conversation in this issue, with Patrizio Bertelli (page 52), the Prada CEO offers a word of advice: ‘We shouldn’t be afraid or hold back. It is part of this overall global integration that we all require. We mustn’t consider people as opponents; we have to let globalization play out and eventually it will turn out to be positive for all.’

Taken from System No. 17.