The Shanghai International Fashion Culture Festival, now in its 10th year, has firmly established itself as one of the most important events of its kind in Asia.

The scope of this year’s festival, which took place March 17-28 at Shanghai New International Expo Center, was impressive. Its diversity of academic lectures, trade fairs, design competitions, fashion shows, beauty pageants and even a specially commissioned post-modern dance drama provided a platform for everyone. From aspiring supermodels to zipper manufacturers, there was a place for all participants to show their wares.

Like a brainy, yet dowdy, schoolgirl the Fashion and Textile expo component of the festival somewhat lacked the requisite glamour associated with such events, but made up for it in shear practical information. With more than1,000 exhibitors in attendance, the festival was an ideal environment for industry movers and shakers seeking to keep up-to-date on the latest technical innovation and trends.

One innovation that created a significant buzz was a series of new fabrics made from bamboo and soy beans. Designers looking for a natural fabric that is durable, affordable and environmentally friendly have successfully adopted these blends. Other technical innovation was on display with the Clone Magic technique, which replicates 3-D textures of materials such as wood, stone or leather, as well as plastic decals.

Demonstrating the staying power of Chinese themes at the expo, companies such as Larosin Tree demonstrated their ability to update traditional wax printed fabrics and present them in hip designs targeted at the ever-expanding Asian youth market. Another surprise for attendees was the extent to which high-tech design and production methods have penetrated the Chinese textile industry. While Japan, Korea and Taiwan have been on the forefront of the region’s industry, it is now clear that China is no longer nipping at their heels but striding along with the pack now. Chinese companies are producing test technology and design programs that are viewed as comparable to foreign produced equipment and state-of-the-art textile software.

The theme of technical innovation was mirrored in the Changning Donghua Fashion Week component of the festival. Leading global experts in 3-D body mapping, digital fashion and mass customization of garments presented lectures that demonstrated the technical and scientific end of the fashion industry. What’s more, Fashion Week clearly presented a rare opportunity to feature the talents of established Chinese designers, including Mark Cheung and Liu Wei, in an accessible forum for fashion design students.

Student designs were the focus of the China Cup event, sponsored by Embry Form. Ninety fashion design students from around the world were competing in menswear, womenswear, beachwear/underwear and childrenswear categories. With significant corporate support and media coverage, the China Cup attracted some of the keenest interest from festival-goers.

The Fashion Culture Festival proved that, in addition to being informative and pragmatic, it could also feature the frivolous and fun side of fashion. Xintiandi and Shanghaimart played host to a series of fashion shows featuring labels such as BCBG, Plein Sud and Dominique Sirop. In addition, the festival concluded with an entertaining—if not slightly head-scratching—mix of a modeling competition and a postmodern multimedia dance drama.

The Shanghai International Fashion Model Competition, held the Grand Theatre and hosted by Dragon TV, allowed an international cast of 48 men and women to strut their stuff down the catwalk for a shot at fame and fortune. Accompanying the models’ moment in the spotlight were performances of "Searching for the Lost Elegant Demeanor", providing a razzle-dazzle tribute to the historical evolution of women’s underwear in China. (www.fashionshanghai.com)

— Keith Andony, Special Correspondent, Shanghai