Far-Eastern and British Cultural Exchanges and Their Influence on the Events Industry

Richard Dodgson
15 December 2014

The Far East has an ever-blossoming relationship with Britain in terms of fashion, style and education. This two-way relationship has led to a cross-fertilisation of cultural and commercial connections in the recent years. The next step in this cultural exchange is sport and events.

We are all familiar with the 'Burberry effect' and news of Chinese and Japanese consumers buying into British heritage brands like Barbour and Diageo, which the Asian market associate with premium quality. These British brands are highly desired by Asian consumers as they are seen as the ultimate aspirational status symbol. However, these brands are often more expensive in Asia because of the aspiration associated with them, which is why many Asian shoppers choose to shop for these in the UK.

There has also been an interesting cultural exchange in terms of education. In Asia, it is believed that being able to speak and write English offers many career advantages and Japan is one of the biggest employers of overseas English teachers. Top universities and colleges in the UK have seen a 150% surge in Asian students, especially on creative arts and design courses. In the UK, we particularly prize the Japanese and Chinese way of doing maths, with many parents enrolling their children in Kumon classes and taking up Sudoku.

Now many of these students, like Grace Lam and Chris Liu, are setting up their own successful fashion businesses, creating their own labels and working for some of Britain’s - and the world's – best-known labels including Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Christian Dior.

This relationship works both ways. Bosideng, one of China's leading menswear brands, opened a £35m store in central London in 2012. With more than 11,000 shops worldwide, it now has a dedicated London collection, designed by its UK design team and mostly made in the UK and Europe. As well as targeting London's consumers, this store is very much aimed at the Chinese abroad too.

Uniqlo, a Japanese casual wear designer, is another example of an Asian brand influencing the UK high street. The first UK Uniqlo store opened in 2001, but relaunched in 2007 by opening two huge new stores in one day. Since this relaunch, the popularity of Uniqlo has exploded in the UK and Selfridges, one of the UK's best loved department stores, now has a Uniqlo menswear concession section in store.

The cultural exchange is now extending to sports and events too. The All English Lawn Tennis Club is using social media to sell the 137-year-old Wimbledon event to emerging Far East markets, including China and Japan. The Wimbledon digital team has begun posting on Weibo, China's answer to Twitter, in Chinese, and is targeting a new Japanese audience through Facebook.

Premier League football clubs, like Chelsea, are also engaging more and more with Far East fans. Manchester City, Tottenham and Sunderland gathered in Hong Kong for the Barclays Asia Trophy, the Premier League's biannual pre-season showpiece. In addition, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool have played in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Japan. There are opportunities for these club brands all over the Far East - Arsenal is China's favourite football team, while Manchester United fans are more prevalent in Japan!

There will be a lot of opportunity for both the east and west at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The whole world will be watching and we know that Japan will not disappoint! We expect to see more daring and audacious projects from brands, and should see sponsored bars and possibly lounges in the sky.

Japanese soft drink manufacturer, Otsuka, have already announced that they are planning the first advert on the moon for Pocari Sweat, so there is a lot to expect from Tokyo 2020! Producing an event on the moon might sound like a giant leap, but it's one we would love to take at Timebased! It's also likely that there will be more unusual buildings built for Tokyo 2020, not only for the Games but for spectator experiences too. We also predict there will be really good opportunities for UK tech and social media companies, particularly in robotics.

There are many thriving channels of associations and there is so much that we can learn from Asia in terms of events. One of our designers, Stephanie Johns, recently returned from a three-month sabbatical in Shanghai, where she worked on various projects that blended design concepts from both east and west. Stephanie worked on a number of events including DAFF Spring 2014, Shanghai's biggest lifestyle community event.

DAFF is a celebration of culture and innovation in Shanghai, so when planning this event it was really important that the demographic represented creatives and industry leaders both Chinese and international. Although the event was very much about celebrating Shanghai, all the information was in both Mandarin and English because of the large expat communities in Shanghai. There was also a lot of international collaboration for the event, with a wide variety of Chinese and international artists really bringing a fresh insight into the arts scene in Shanghai. This included fashion shows of Chinese brands, graffiti artists, DJs and designers.

The event industry in Shanghai is very different to the UK. Refreshingly, people are really open to suggestions and Shanghai's event industry tends to focus on pop up and experiential events. Unlike the UK, the market has not been saturated so you are creating new experiences that no-one has seen before. From Stephanie's experience, we have also discovered suppliers in Shanghai are incredibly quick and efficient. Companies and venues are keen to engage with the community. If you want to create a festival for 12,000 people in a 6000m2 industrial cement plant - you can!

We are planning our first trip to Japan early in 2015 prior to the 2020 Olympics. The cultural and commercial connections are loaded with exciting potential, and it's an exchange that will enrich industry on both sides. As we connect through the Far East's interest in fashion, style, education, sport and events, we share the infectious sense of optimism that commerce and culture in the region seems to exude and look forward to discovering what we can learn in return.

Originally published by The Huffington Post
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