Soon There Will Be Beautiful People in Beijing, and New York and Paris Will Crumble

Young designers almost never get their wares into major department stores, and they can’t afford their own place. That leaves the independent boutique: concept stores like Colette and 10 Corso Como, and uber-chic retailers in SoHo, Brick Lane, Prenzlauer Berg, Venice, Calif., and everywhere else fashion is created, not followed. Fashion, like everything else, is being created in China now. In cities like Beijing and Shanghai, there is a growing subset of customers who want more than just big names — and there is a growing pool of designers who are creating a new fashion, a new esthetic. But that pool has not yet reached a critical mass: There are exciting, important designers in China now — Xander Zhou and Simon Gao, for instance — but there aren’t many places for them to sell their stuff. The HUB Fashion Fair, in Hong Kong, is trying to change that. Pioneering retailers like Jiang Mingming of Waterstone have joined with designers like Victor Zhu and the media giant Li Mengxia to create a place for discussing the fashion economy. Major obstacles to more multibrand stores include super-high rents in shopping malls and import taxes. If these people get things right, if they show how we might reconfigure the retail marketplace, fashion — in Beijing and in New York, Paris, London, Milan, et al. — will be changed forever.

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