LONDON — Ontimeshow, the largest fashion trade show during Shanghai Fashion Week, has ambitions beyond its biannual trade show business.

An instant step in its plan is to expand its fashion showcase and showroom functions. This season it took over Tank Shanghai, a contemporary art space converted from oil tanks and a short walk away from its main venue on West Bund, to meet the increasing demand from local designers.

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Yeli Gu, founder of Ontimeshow, said they just signed another five-year strategic partnership with West Bund to help the area reinforce its positioning as the city’s up-and-coming art and design district. In return, Ontimeshow gets to steadily expand its presence in the desirable location.

A short drive from downtown Shanghai, West Bund is where some of the city’s highest-profile art museums are located, such as West Bund Museum, which holds a five-year partnership with Paris’ Centre Pompidou, as well as Yuz Museum and Long Museum, which have done exhibitions and fashion shows with Gucci and Dior, respectively.

This season West Bund is also offering the majestic dome-shaped show space Dream Center for designers, with Ontimeshow’s showroom business RoomRoom showcasing their spring 2022 collections.

The lineup includes first Chinese Fashion Fringe winner Haizhen Wang, the first Chinese Woolmark Prize winner Qiuhao, LVMH Prize-short-listed Susan Fang and Xiao li, and Angel Chen, who became known internationally with Netflix’s fashion reality show “Next in Fashion.”

Fang, who has relocated to Shanghai from London due to the pandemic, said Ontimeshow has been supportive throughout the process. She built a silver tree with purple crystals as leaves in her showroom space in RoomRoom, and she is ready for her show on Sunday.

“This is our first season working with RoomRoom and they have been a super great support for both the show and our showroom, whether it’s very experienced sales help or a nice space for us to curate. Even how we need enough time to build the venue, which is a 3,000-square-meter theater, they really supported us as much as they can,” she added.

Other brands to watch this season at Ontimeshow include Annakiki, By Fang, Deepmoss, Evening, Judyhua, Masha Ma, Renli Su, Roderic Wong, Sweetpotato Chiu, Wan Yi Fang and Yingpei Studio.

Will Zhang, founder of the Chongqing-based fashion boutique SND, said Ontimeshow has become a place for him to discover new brands, especially during the pandemic, when buying local makes more sense than buying from Paris or Milan.

Chengdu concept store Republique owner Joyce Wang said of Ontimeshow: “Its display each season is quite artistic and interesting. It shows the beauty of fashion in a diversified way so that people don’t feel like they are here just to do business, which also provides me with a lot of inspiration and creative ideas to run my store.”

Ontimeshow now generates an average of more than 3 billion renminbi, or $465 million, worth of orders a season. Last season, 217 brands were showcased with Ontimeshow, and some 24,600 people visited the trade show. Fashion label 13DE Marzo received more than 90 million renminbi, or $14 million, worth of orders that season.

On top of catering to the trade audience, Ontimeshow this season partnered with Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, to expand online. All shows will be livestreamed on the platform.

The two also collaborated on a talent scout project alongside the Chinese edition of Nylon magazine, fashion boutique On/Off, and cashmere supplier Sandriver. The finalists are Acradetoken, Cheng Cheng, Donsee10, Nan Knits, Nildet, Outdoger, The Utterance, Artchi, Monsecret and Mandarin Zan Club.

It also formed a strategic partnership with Chinese social commerce platform Xiaohongshu on the “Red 100” project. Brands will be able to sell directly to the consumers on Xiaohongshu beginning today as the trade show starts.

They are also hosting a fashion salon during fashion week, where industry experts will chat with some 24 designers from the trade show and offer the platform’s audience a preview of their new season collections. At the same time, Xiaohongshu will share data with the designers about who are the target audiences and help them reach a more focused audience.

But what Ontimeshow really is betting on when it comes to growth is its investment vehicle Yuanmu, and its long-term partnership with Bailian Group, Shanghai’s biggest commercial property landlord, on the fashion incubation project Yanqing Li, a 67,000-square-foot warehouse conversion overlooking the Suzhou River and the city’s Bulgari Hotel. Bailian Group acquired a 10 percent stake in Ontimeshow at the end of 2019.

A dozen designers — such as Helen Lee, OOAK, Roderic Wong and Haizhen Wang — have set up studios in Yanqingli. There are also communication agencies, fashion education providers, and exhibition spaces, forming a mini fashion industry ecosystem that mutually benefits each other.

Ontimeshow has also launched the retail concept Out of Stock 0909. As its name suggests, it aims to help designer and brand partners to liquidate out-of-season inventory.

Since entering the market eight years ago under the encouragement of Shanghai Fashion Week’s vice secretary Lv Xiaolei, Gu said in her journey scaling the trade show business, she realized that Ontimeshow can play a much bigger role in the Chinese fashion industry.

“With trade shows, you see where the market is heading. I soon saw that in order to grow, we need to connect the dots along the value chain and help our designers to grow as a business. Many of them have never managed a business or even worked in a professional environment before they launch their brands. What we can do is to make sure that they receive proper support no matter what stage the brand is at.

“With Bailian and West Bund’s support, we are able to lower designers’ operation costs throughout the year. And with RoomRoom and our investment arm Yuanmu, we are able to get to the root of the problem from within companies, and free designers from daily operations so that they can focus on delivering great designs,” she said, adding that Haizhen Wang is an example of how the incubation is working out.

Since receiving Ontimeshow’s investment, the brand’s annual revenue has jumped 600 percent in the period of two years. Gu also revealed that Yuanmu will reveal a new round of fashion brand investments at the end of this year.

Looking ahead, Gu said: “Our ultimate goal is to become an open and inclusive designer brand incubation and management platform. We hope that as we grow stronger season after season, our designers can walk on an easier pathway to success, and one day become a brand with global influence.”


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