With the heralded Singles’ Day looming over the minds of anyone with an ear towards China, Alibaba’s gargantuan sales machine has primed its engines. With its fashion week in the rear-view mirror, a gloomy Sunday in Shanghai saw the Oriental Sports Stadium play host to the Tmall Collection, China’s ground-breaking fashion show, or maybe more accurately, ‘fashion festival’.

Built upon Tmall’s live-streaming platform, the event provided a celebration of offline-to-online innovation. It did so within a market it dominates; Tmall holds a near 80% market share in online B2C sales of apparel and accessories, an industry set to exceed RMB1 trillion in sales in 2017. The 8-hour fashion show was watched by 1.3 million consumers on a specially designed interface. If the viewer liked what they saw on the screen, a couple taps would take them to a product page to proceed with their purchase; the impulsive shoppers among us heavily preyed upon.


The money-spinning slogan of the day, often lit up across the colossal stage, shouted “See Now, Buy Now”. Chris Tung, Chief Marketing Officer of Alibaba Group, coined a subtler turn of phrase, hoping to see Tmall achieve the status of a lifestyle trendsetter with “a fashion week at your fingertips”. It was a recurring theme on the day, with consumers prompted at every turn to get on their phones and take advantage of the discounted garments set to be fulfilled on Singles’ Day. The platform played perfectly for its target audience with endless comments and ‘likes’ flying through the screen, spiking in accordance with celebrities or notable moments. These interactive live streaming events are a phenomenal way to get your consumers interested, as we recently found out with Comvita.


The day was poised to kick-start the build-up to 11/11’s consumer mayhem, serving up a sometimes confusing but fascinating blend of incredible consumer trends and the aspirations of a premium fashion show.

The morning press conference had the big names behind the marketing efforts of Alibaba coupled with the fashion expertise of ELLE and WGSN duly paying lip-service to the event. They noted Shanghai’s fashion week as one of the top-5 in the world, spoken in the same breath as the likes of Paris and Milan. Numbers and names flew around the room for this event; over 150 international models, over 80 brands on display, with Maye Musk and Nick Wooster headlining the foreign influence. As always with this audience, bigger is better, and 8 hours of fashion action promised to sate their hunger.

Photo 1

Of course, this all played into the Singles’ Day hype with those targeting the day with a special release brought to the stage. As is tradition we weren’t short of some mind-bending stats. Both Maserati and New Balance aim to break records. Maserati hope to beat the 100 SUVs sold in 18 seconds at their Tmall launch in March. New Balance, not to be outdone, quickly noted that last year’s Jay Chou collaboration reached 100 sales in 9 seconds.

With the press conference behind us we pressed on to the main event. Alibaba’s ploy to interact its audience with everything wasn’t limited to their online platform. A gauntlet of products, prize draws and even hairstyles drew our attention as we pushed onwards to our seats, all available for the time it took to scan a QR code. The advent of live streaming was clearly on display even before reaching the show. Alibaba’s slick transformation of advertising into an eagerly consumed form of entertainment was rampant.


Dolled-up models temperately displayed their wares amongst the throng, fielding live questions and catching passers-by for an interview. This set the scene for what was to come in this increasingly festival-like atmosphere. It may have missed the sleek and exclusive appeal of their ‘peers’ in New York and Paris but in doing so became an entirely different experience. Like a festival-goer with his favourite artists, the programme prompted attendees to note down which brands they wanted to see and come and go as they please.

The show operated on the 6 hottest trends identified by fashion authorities ELLE and WGSN. Developed under the empowered umbrella term “Boundless” these covered “genderless”, “fun is everything”, “athleisure”, “power dressing”, “the Eastern character” and “a curated life”. Even though these trends played a part in the proceedings they took a backseat to the festivities. The experience was partly a digital one and the glitz and the spending is what won the day. A highlight of the day was the much-awaited Burberry show. Announcing a new scent, a mist cloud of the fragrance diffused over the stage and into the audience while an umbrella-wielding model strutted out underneath – a sight surely set to send social media accounts buzzing.

Photo 2

The day proved interesting, and built upon the growing expectations for Singles’ Day. Less than two weeks away and murmurs of savvy consumers crafting their plan of attack for the 11th November have grown stronger. For some greater insights into this unparalleled event or how to resonate with Chinese consumers get in touch with China Skinny. With a deep understanding of the Chinese market we can help you take advantage of events like Singles’ Day.