Highlights from the Taobao Maker Festival 2019
The Coresight Research team was invited to attend Alibaba’s Taobao Maker Festival 2019 in Hangzhou, China, on September 12, the fourth year for the event. The Taobao Maker Festival will be of the largest scale with longest exhibition time from September 12-25. The Taobao Maker Festival has become a signature event to celebrate innovation and the creativity of Chinese merchants and designers.
- The New Technology Zone showcased ideas and innovation by Chinese merchants related to lifestyle, entertainment, transportation and education.
- The China Cool Zone leveraged the growing trend of “China Pride” among millennials and Gen Zers, with a modern interpretation and a re-invention of traditional culture.
- Sneaker customization is growing rapidly as a way for China’s young generation to express individuality.
The Coresight Research team attended the Taobao Maker Festival 2019 in Hangzhou, China, September 11-12. Alibaba’s Taobao Maker Festival, first launched in 2016, celebrates the “maker spirit” of Chinese merchants and designers, and how that spirit is resonating among China’s young generation (millennials and Gen Zers). This year, the event was held at two innovative venues: the old Hangzhou Boiler Factory transformed into a modern exhibition hall and at the West Lake.
The Taobao Maker Festival incubates and celebrates ingenuity and creativity
Taobao (Alibaba’s C2C platform for small business and individual entrepreneurs) has seen an explosion in creativity-related industry during the past few years. The Taobao Maker Festival is a celebration of these creativity-driven merchants and designers.
The Taobao Maker Festival wants to continue its role as an incubator of new ideas, concepts, innovations, designs, manufacturing and collaborations. It will feature 1,000 new and limited-edition products at the event.
The Taobao Maker Festival is open to the public (for a fee of RMB350, about US$50), but to deliver a completely exploration experience, the Taobao Maker Festival does not enable on-site sales. But, merchants can display QR codes consumers can scan to link to their online stores.
We saw many Chinese startups showcasing their latest innovations:
- C-Exoskeleton is a startup that develops soft robotic exoskeletons. Currently, the company’s technology is used in logistics, manufacturing and by the military, with potential emergency services functionality. The company filled its first order in early 2017.
- Royale produces advanced flexible displays, sensors and smart devices, including a “paper-thin” bendable screen.
- LuxCreo offers high-speed 3D printing technology to make customized shoe insoles. After taking a customer’s footprints on a treadmill, the technology can produce 3D printed shoes within half an hour. The company now offers sneakers designed in-house and is also working with sneaker brands.
- XPin is a startup working on technology to allow people to control a drone with their brain waves.
- GreenMonday created Omnipork, a plant-based imitation pork targeting vegetarians, the health minded and the more sustainability-conscious young generation.
China Cool: A fusion of traditional Chinese culture and modern innovation
A growing number of Chinese young people are embracing elements of traditional Chinese culture in various forms, and young people are lapping it up: Some 32% of merchandise on Taobao considered to be cultural heritage products is sold to the generation born on or after 1990. Han costume, which refers to the ancient clothing of the Han Chinese have been revived and are emerging as a fashion trend – expected to grow 100-150% this year, according to the founder of Jingyutang, one of the largest sellers of Han costume on Taobao.
Not only for women, Han costume designs are also popular with men, with many popular patterns integrating original patterns from the past with modern elements. We also saw bags, speakers and headsets designed with Chinese embroidery and figures. Moreover, the West Lake venue hosted a fashion show featuring exclusive cross-branded and cross-cultural “China Cool” clothes. Wearing or carrying “China Cool” products is a way for China’s youth to show pride in Chinese culture.
China’s younger generation wants customization to express individuality
The sneaker market is booming in China and is expected to contribute significantly to future growth. We saw plenty of sneaker merchants showcasing limited-edition and specially-designed sneakers. Sneaker customization has been available in China for only a few years but is already seeing growth among the youth who see sneakers as a must-have to show personal style. Major companies such as Nike and Adidas now offer personalization service in China.
FZBB, a sneaker customization company, offers customization of colors, patterns and even texture. The founder Ah Feng (who goes by his Taobao nickname but does not disclose his real name) mentioned the company’s main target market is young customers aged 15-25, who are either sneakerheads or style conscious.
BeyondFit 3D shoe printing by LuxCreo lets consumers customize sneakers insoles that seamlessly fit their feet in functionality and design.