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PARIS — France on Monday kicked off a year of celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the beginning of diplomatic relations between France and China.
The Cité de la Mode et du Design hosted a bilateral conference on the “hybridization of culture,” a phenomenon which “in fashion is happening in absolute terms,” noted Didier Grumbach, president of the Chambre Syndicale, French fashion’s governing body, and one of the conference’s keynote speakers.
Grumbach said that the Chambre Syndicale’s links to China date back to 1989, when 13 couturiers and six French fashion designers embarked on their first collective journey to China to showcase their creations.
Though it took another 18 years before a Chinese designer would join the Paris fashion calendar — Wu Yong in 2007 — Grumbach insists the exchange remains fertile, quoting Shiatzy Chen, Masha Ma andYang Li as the only three guest members from China — “but only for now.”
Grumbach compared the situation to 50 years ago, when France looked to the United States for guidance to build its ready-to-wear business at a time when haute couture dominated the sector.
“Today it is China who is eager to learn about brand building, internationalization and the way we work,” he said, noting that Anne-Valérie Hash or Marcel Marongiu of Guy Laroche have “long-term consulting contracts” with Chinese brands.
“The industry is getting bigger and bigger,” confirmed Zeng Gengsheng, president of Genyuan Investment, which also supports fashion-related ventures. “Naturally, it’s a challenge for companies to deal with the changes.”
Zeng added, that while the interest of the Chinese consumer is systematically shifting from luxury to “everyday” products, from larger to smaller cities and from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce, which “already generates an impressive turnover,” the needs of the fashion sector are growing.
“Before, the Chinese fashion industry needed only stylists, now it needs anyone from marketing experts to shop window decorators,” he noted.
Early in the day, Simon Poniard and Basile Pottier set off on a seven-month bicycle journey from Paris to Beijing sponsored by French retailer Carrefour. The duo left from the foot of General Charles de Gaulle's statue opposite the Grand Palais and were due to travel through 10 countries, covering a distance of around 7,800 miles.
France was the first major Western country to restore ambassadorial level relations with Communist China in 1964, when de Gaulle officially recognized the People’s Republic of China.
On Monday evening, Chinese and French students were expected to join government officials and business representatives at the “Nuit de Chine au Grand Palais,” held in partnership with L’Oréal and sponsored by companies including Carrefour, Chanel, Chaumet, Dior, Galeries Lafayette, Guerlain, Hermès, Kering and Van Cleef & Arpels.
It will feature a piano recital by Lang Lang, in addition to an equestrian show by Bartabas and performances by China’s Phoenix Circus and the Tagou Martial Arts School.