For the first time since its inception in 2017, Vogue’s annual Forces of Fashion conference expanded to Shanghai. The three-day inaugural edition, put together by Vogue China, was a first for the publication as it continues to grow its footprint beyond the pages of the magazine. It comes at a time when China’s fashion industry is primed for a global expansion after a year of lockdowns and following a buzzy Shanghai Fashion Week featuring a host of burgeoning local designers and international guests including Stella McCartney. That “Vogue Forces of Fashion” was the number one trending topic in the country online on opening night signals the excitement around the first-of-its-kind event.
“So many of the cultural initiatives we have been building at Vogue China over the past two years to empower Chinese creativity across all disciplines—the Vogue China Fashion Fund, our traditional Chinese Craftsmanship project, VOGUEfilm in support of Chinese women in film, PhotoVOGUE, Vogue Open Casting—all manifested in Forces of Fashion’s maiden voyage in Shanghai,” said Margaret Zhang, the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue China. “I was so proud to see the local fashion community come together to really celebrate Chinese talent, and the enthusiasm of our Vogue audience who came from around the country to immerse themselves in Vogue’s universe.”
This past October, the New York edition of Forces of Fashion saw Vogue welcome guests into its home, opening the magazine’s offices at One World Trade Center to pull back the curtains and show what it takes to create the content our community engages with every day. In Shanghai, Zhang and her team built Forces of Fashion to foster conversations between designers, editors, and their readers.
The kick-off event was an invite-only runway presentation of the Vogue China Fashion Fund finalists, who presented their work on models from the glossy’s edition of Vogue Open Casting. Winners were announced immediately after the show. “The event made me proud to be a Chinese designer,” said Zhong Zixin, the winner of the Fund’s Chinese Designer Prize. “Vogue has created the perfect moment for us to be seen by the world. I’m really glad to receive the first award since Vogue Fashion Fund debuted in China,” the designer continued, adding that the most valuable lesson from the experience was the clarity it gave her about her work and what her brand stands for. Zixin took home 1 million Chinese Yuan, around $140,000, while Kong Yue, the winner of the Student Programme, received around $14,000.
The following two days of the conference were open to the public, and featured a series of panels anchored by a conversation between Zhang and Anna Wintour, Vogue Editor-in-Chief and Condé Nast Global Editorial Director, about the future of the fashion industry and the magazine’s role in supporting emerging talent globally. This event was followed by a panel between Zhang and Du Juan, who is considered one of China’s first global supermodels, about the evolution of modeling; and a conversation between actor Gong Ju, designer Jason Wu, and embroidery master Kang Ning on the changing face of Asian representation in global fashion. The event also included a series of workshops on styling and Chinese craftsmanship, plus a PHOTOVogue showcase, live Vogue shoots for upcoming magazine stories, and a shoppable replica of Vogue China’s editorial fashion closet.
The Courrèges designer Nicolas Di Felice and Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez also paid a visit to Shanghai to participate in panels. Di Felice discussed the synergy and symbiosis between music and style with singer Lexie Liu, DJ Bigloco, and Vogue China video lead Raymond Fu. He revealed that he sometimes composes fragments of the music for his own shows, having made music when he was younger.
McCollough and Hernandez, on their end, participated in a conversation with model Cici Xiang ang Vogue+ editor Lily Chou. The Proenza Schouler designers were the first to win the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund back in 2003, and were able to see Vogue China crown its inaugural winners and offer some words of wisdom: “It’s important to cut out the noise and not get too influenced by what everyone thinks of you,” said McCollough. “That’s when you start catering to other people, as opposed to having a true, clean, clear vision for yourself.” Hernandez emphasized the importance of being consistent while continuing to offer novelty: “It’s confusing, and a lot of people fall into a trap,” said the designer. “We did when we were young. […] We were kind of just all over the place, and it was okay then because there were fewer designers, but if we did that approach today, we wouldn’t be here right now.”