[showtime] Since my arrival in town two months ago, I've experienced my first Chinese concert in Pudong, where I saw a Chinese singer do something no other Chinese singer has ever done before. I've scoped out the Shanghai art scene, exploring museums as well as the graffiti and galleries near Moganshan Lu. From what I've seen, it's clear there's a boom in arts and culture in this thousand-year-old city, which is steadily emerging as China's largest fashion capital. In fact, what's happening here in Shanghai is something unique from any other place in the world. Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with one of my good friends, a freelance photographer from New York, who actually attended and shot online retailer Hong Kong-based designer Stella Lam's 2013 Spring/Summer show in Xintiandi during Shanghai Fashion Week. It was a very different Fashion Week to what this New Yorker was used to. Allow me to introduce the girl behind the lens, Dani Grant. So you went to Shanghai Fashion Week. How on earth did you get those invites?! So it was really funny. I was meeting [my friends] Ahrum and Nic there, and so I was there waiting, and a show had just finished so there was a wave of people leaving. And I was like, "Well if I don't go in now, I'll never get in." So I just walked in as everyone was walking out. I don't know if I had to show anything, but I was like "Okay, I'm in!" Nothing like the thrill of sneaking into a fashion show! There was a guy who was guarding the door, and he asked if I had a ticket. I was super frantic. I was like, "I need to be in there!" ...and so he let me in. What was it like? What did Shanghai Fashion Week look like? I expected to be around people who really, just, dress well. But people came in T-shirts, jeans and sneakers, and they brought their kids who were in shorts—which was very different from what I'd imagine a New York fashion show to be like. When you walk around in New York during Fashion Week, people dress up for New York. Did you also feel like there was no hype over Shanghai Fashion Week?! It's weird because I know for New Yorkers, at least, Fashion Night Out is a night that everyone is aware of. Even as freshman in college, we were like "let's go!" But it's not a thing here—it's not in the culture, which is fine. Part of it might be a political issue, maybe. For example, the one big designer that showed was Vera Wang. It was at a separate location, with heightened security. My friend went, and she said that they checked her ticket thoroughly. I think it's because of Chinese intellectual property problems because there's a lot of problems with knock-offs for designer brands and luxury brands. How did the fashion show itself differ from what you were used to seeing in New York or anywhere else? I'm an avid Victoria's Secret Fashion Show watcher—I watch it every year. It's phenomenal. The models, they are out of this world. They are inhumanly thin. They are inhumanly beautiful. They wear things that are not human—they wear giant wings...and the whole set up [of the show]—it just transports you. But these models [in Shanghai]...they were so real. These were people off the street. There were a few Asians; most of them were white, and most of them were normally-sized. For instance, one of the models from I.MODEC, she was thin, but she's not that thin, which I actually really like. So they weren't the typical, model-thin couture models we're all so used to seeing on the runways? There's this issue of morals versus art. For me, the show didn't transport me! At the end when the models [posed] in the back, you can see they're just really normal. They're just people wearing these clothes. Then it really becomes about the clothing—which is cool, which is what a fashion show should be versus a show that's more made up and constructed. What kind of fashion show "transports" you? Alexander McQueen would have a woman with a white dress walk down the runway, and there would be paint sprayed on her...and that just takes you to this new place so that it's more about who he is as a brand, and the fashion show gives you an idea of that. [With the Shanghai fashion shows,] I was underwhelmed—and not because it was bad, nothing like that. But to me, a fashion show needs to make a statement about a brand. There were about five or six shows a day for seven days—so how are you supposed to stand out? The music was normal; it wasn't loud enough to be coursing through you. There were some theatrics. Nothing crazy. And there's something underwhelming when the people around you are all dressed so normally. What you want is the people around you to be part of the game as well. So all together, it just felt very normal. Highlight of Shanghai Fashion Week? For me a highlight was sneaking in. And then, because it was smaller, we got to sit front row—and that is a different experience! Seeing something up close that is supposed to be viewed from afar as a spectacle, to see pores and to have models walking right by you... it was all very cool because I was right there.
Want to get your hands on some designer gear like those of I.MODEC and Stella Lam? Head to Xintiandi to check out the luxury brand shops and high-end boutiques. All photos © Dani Grant. Thanks, Dani, for chatting and sharing your photos with us! Check out more of Dani Grant's work here!