China Fashion Forum: Amanda Kaiser

Updated: 2012-03-30 09:14

By Tiffany Tan (Agencies)

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In a rare interview, Amanda Kaiser, Asian editor of Women's Wear Daily, spoke to Tiffany Tan about how China faces an uphill battle trying to shake off a reputation for imitating designs. She also talked about how her 100-year-old trade publication has adapted to new media and how finding Chinese correspondents is not easy. Check out the interview excerpts below.

Related: China Fashion Forum: Jane Rapley

China Fashion Forum: Amanda Kaiser

Amanda Kaiser speaks during China Fashion Forum. [Photo/]

Traditional media all over the world is coping with the rise of social media, new media, blogs, apps. How has WWD - with such a long history - adapted to this?

WWD is published as a daily newspaper in the United States. But almost all of our international distribution is online. So our model has shifted dramatically over the last 10, 15 years. We've gone from a daily paper that came out Monday to Friday to a basically 24-hour news organization. I'm in Asia, we have offices in Europe and then we have the main office in New York. So we're posting stories in real time, as they happen, breaking news. We have a Twitter feed, we have a blog, we have videos on the site. Like any media organization, you have to adapt. Nobody had any choice. If you don't do these things you're just gonna become extinct.

Is it because of the language difference that it has been difficult for you to get local correspondents, or do you want people who are exposed to a certain kind of writing and culture?

Obviously knowledge of fashion and knowledge of China is important. But it also comes down to writing ability, and for that I really need native English speakers, for the most part. And then we try to work from the native English speakers to find the people who have the most knowledge of China, people who speak Chinese. But I find that those (foreign) reporters do a good job because they understand China, but they can also put it in the correct international context.

You mentioned in your keynote speech that China has a reputation for imitating designs. Has there been any development in this in the last few years, since the Chinese are pushing to become originators?

It's no secret that China really wants to develop brands, and that's the next logical step for China. It's been a manufacturing power for many years. Now it needs to think about "the next logical thing for us to develop our fashion industry", and that is developing brands. We've definitely seen evidence of Chinese brands starting to make a mark internationally, but it's still in its infancy.

Getting back to the imitation issue, I think that that still sticks, a little bit. I think it's kind of an entrenched belief and it's been that way for so long. I think it's gonna take a really great designer to just burst out on the international scene to probably start to change that mentality.

What do you think is one of the biggest hindrances to a Chinese brand going global?

It's just tough. It's not just a thing for Chinese brands but for any brand. It's always a bit of a balancing act. You have to do something innovative and convince people that your brand or your product is more worthwhile than somebody else's. And it's really difficult to just say, "You need to do x and y in order to do that." Like I said at the beginning of my speech, it's not like chemistry where if you do this and you do that, you'll get your result. It's kind of a crazy mix of things, and sometimes a formula for one person works and sometimes a formula for somebody else doesn't work.

What does it take to organize a fashion week like New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week? Read about Kaiser's thoughts on the matter in China Daily.

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