Runway Gimmicks: Highlights from Shanghai Fashion Week 2023

Embrace the avant-garde as we explore the unconventional runway gimmicks that trended during the 2023 A/W Shanghai Fashion Week

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12:37 PM HKT, Tue April 4, 2023 2 mins read

From Coperni’s spray-on dress to Schiaparelli’s animal heads, the global fashion community has experienced a rising tide of ‘runway gimmicks’ during this year’s various global fashion weeks, including the recently concluded 2023 Autumn/Winter Shanghai Fashion Week.

In an increasingly saturated attention economy, where competition for audience engagement is fierce, fashion brands are constantly innovating to capture attention. Though fashion is undoubtedly an art form, it’s also a business, and designers are searching for fresh and creative ways to stand out from the crowd.

And now that Shanghai has finally come out of pandemic mode, RADII was glad to see fashion lovers and show-goers returning to the latest Shanghai Fashion Week in full force with dynamic and energetic styles. In the words below, we explore some of the most unconventional runway highlights from the event, which ran from March 23 to 30. Get inspired, fashion enthusiasts!

1. Fabric Porn

Our favorite gimmick from the recent edition of Shanghai Fashion Week comes from Fabric Porn, a fashion label founded in Shanghai in 2019. The brand’s founder and designer, Zhao Chenxi, opened the show on March 26 by riding a bicycle down the runway.

Fabric Porn

Zhao’s label frequently blends Western influences with traditional Chinese cultural elements. Image via Xiaohongshu

His T-shirt proudly sported the words ‘certificate maker’ alongside a phone number, bringing viewers back to the time before the internet when people had to seek out skilled craftsmen to create official documents instead of using free online design software. From there, increasingly bizarre antics followed suit.

shanghai fashion week 2023, shanghai fashion week, Shanghai fashion

Image courtesy of Graeme Kennedy

The show was themed around ‘ganji’ (赶集), a local gathering similar to a farmer’s market in the West but with a more down-to-earth style. In the past, when the economy was underdeveloped, locals regularly gathered to trade commodities at these events.

Therefore, it was not a surprise to see one model walk out holding a dog wearing a brocade jacket while another passed out eggs from a woven basket. The show’s final moments featured models wearing long leather jackets and military hats handing cigarettes to audience members.

Fabric Qorn Eggs at shanghai fashion week 2023, shanghai fashion week

A model passes out eggs during the fashion showcase, a nod to the show’s theme. Image via Xiaohongshu

As a brand dedicated to showcasing the unique aspects of Chinese aesthetics and traditional folk customs, Fabric Porn presented outfits that combined lambswool, faux mink fur, and printed cotton fabrics in the style of Northeast China.

“This brand is so fun! It showcased Chinese people’s cultural confidence and humor!” reads the top comment under a post on Xiaohongshu, a Chinese social media platform similar to Instagram.

2. Hazzys

(Hu)man’s best friend was in the spotlight during the recently wrapped-up Shanghai Fashion Week, when Hazzys, a Korean casual wear brand, had models walk down the runway accompanied by a furry friend wearing matching accessories on March 23.

Hazzys FW23 at shanghai fashion week 2023, shanghai fashion week

A model struts down the runway with a furry companion. Image via Xiaohongshu

While exciting and seemingly novel, the use of canines on the catwalk was not new for Hazzys: In 2020, the brand received considerable attention for the same show concept.

Netizens on Xiaohongshu complimented the cuteness of the animals and noted how much they livened up the atmosphere.

3. Kensun

Among the other creative gimmicks at the fashion week, the collaboration between Kensun, a Shenzhen-based ‘neo-Chinese style’ brand, and Toni&Guy, a British upscale hair salon chain, stood out for turning the typical runway show on its head.

Moments typically kept behind the scenes were brought center stage in this collaboration, where models got fresh cuts and dyes on the runway.

Kensun x Toni and Guy

Models are receiving final hair touch-ups during Kensun x Toni&Guy. Image courtesy of Mihaly Giber

Though fashion lovers on various corners of the internet have debated the purpose of runway gimmicks and whether they detract from or add to shows, Chinese netizens have embraced this aspect of fashion events.

Cover image via VCG

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