The Agenda: Biggest Creative Industry Events of the Year

If you work in design, fashion, photography, events, marketing, tech, or anywhere in between — then here are the yearly fairs, festivals, and expos you'll want to be on the lookout for. We'll put in any additions as they pop up (or cross out any that get axed) throughout the year, so check this space for updates.
 

FEBRUARY     

 

1) SpinExpo

This is a big one for people whose work involves textiles, pattern-making, and fashion design. SpinExpo bills itself as the "leading fibers, yarns, knitted fabrics and knitwear show", and is also held in New York and Paris every year. SpinExpo puts out these reports after each show, too, to sum up the trends, patterns, and new styles shown by exhibitors, in addition to maintaining this blog SpinExplore that covers the industry's need-to-know news throughout the year.

 
 

MARCH  

1) Design Shanghai

 
Though it's a relative newcomer (launched in 2014), this show is already one of the city's most important expos of the year, design-related or otherwise. It's organized by well-known British events company Media 10, whose got connections with big names like Wallpaper, Jaguar, Swarovski, etc. — names that can pull famous designers like Neri & Hu, Marcel Wanders, or Frederikon & Stallard into its roster of guest speakers and collaborators. The exhibitors are a mix of international and domestic Chinese brands, with more emphasis placed on the latter each year.
 

2) Intertextile [Spring]

 
This is one of the world's most important and comprehensive trade fairs for the apparel and home textiles industry, and the Shanghai edition is Asia's largest. Intertextile holds separate events for the two categories, and is especially strong in the home textiles sector — interior designers and lifestyle product producers consider it a must-see. 
 

3) Shanghai Literary Festival 

 
M on the Bund puts on a solid program of talks, readings, and debates covering poetry, history, food, fiction, current affairs, biography/memoir, travel, and architecture every year. There are also writing workshops, and the schedule usually includes a handful of big names in journalism and contemporary fiction, such as Pulitzer Prize winning historian Edward Larson, former China correspondent for the New Yorker Evan Osnos, or graphic novel writer and filmmaker Etgar Keret. 
 

4) JUE Festival

 
Music and events company Splitworks' annual music, arts and culture festival started off with a heavy emphasis on live music shows, but has grown to include an excellent offering of art, film, and literature-related activities, performances, and panels too. The event's getting skipped this year as Splitworks focuses on expanding its other festival programs, but should be back on starting next year (2017), which is great news since JUE brings one of the city's greatest cultural offerings all year with its smart blend of art and pop culture.

 
 
This one's a big one for those working in the hospitality and F&B industries, and we're including it because of its importance for interior decor, tableware products, and textiles for large-scale needs. 
 
 

APRIL 

1) Shanghai Fashion Week

 
Shanghai's twice yearly fashion week sees a slew of local and international designers holding runway shows and after-parties, with bigger names in participation every year — Diesel, Astrid Andersen, Giambattista Valli have all participated in recent editions, alongside the best of native Chinese designers like Fake Natoo, Helen Lee, and Zhang Da. Events are invite-only through the designer, brand, or PR rep, though it's pretty easy to get a ticket to see the runway shows through the scalpers milling about the event's main entrance in Xintiandi.
 

2) Luxe Pack Shanghai

 
This expo's focus is on packaging — bags, cases, boxes, bottles, etc. — for the luxury sectors. The exhibitors tend to show especially strong in fashion, beauty, and cosmetics, though the event tend to attract visitors with any general level of interest and professional ability in packaging design.
 

3) Auto Shanghai

 
China is the largest car manufacturer in the world, and this is China's largest expo for automobiles — so expect a lot going on here. Previous editions have seen major new concepts unveiled on its show floor, including concepts from automakers like BMW Citroën, Buick, Volvo, Chevrolet, and Audi. Naturally, the show is also the best (and often first) source of seeing products coming out of China's many auto brands such as Chang'an, BYD, and SAIC.
 

4) MODE Shanghai

 
This fashion apparel and accessories expo isn't quite the biggest, but since it's the official trade show of Shanghai Fashion Week and organized by the same committee that puts on Fashion Week, MODE tends to put together a solid roster of exhibitors and quality showrooms.
 

5) Digital 360 China

 
This big digital marketing and e-commerce conference comes from Haymarket Media, which also publishes Campaign Asia. The summit covers trends and methods of data interpretation for China's digital media platforms, with talks and panel discussions from major players in the industry — e.g., the Media Director from Intel or Managing Director from Dentsu Aegis.
 
 

MAY

 
TED talks are pretty ubiquitous and don't need much of an explanation nowadays — the x designation here means that these conferences are organized independently by locals, rather than through the official TED brand. TEDx Shanghai events have always prioritized a balance of attracting Chinese and foreign visitors, so the events usually work out to half being presented in Chinese, half of the talks in English. TEDx seems to update its FaceBook page more regularly, so it's probably best to check out that page for news.
 

2) Portfolio Night

 
Every year, a bunch of fresh grads and ad agency hopefuls have their portfolios in hand and do a quick portfolio review with creative directors and agency heads from 4A firms, essentially creating an assembly line of portfolios that give these huge ad companies a chance to spot promising talent for possible recruitment. At the very least, these hopefuls receive advice for improving their work or presentation ability (at the cost of a 100rmb ticket).
 
 
This huge expo covers all things beauty: cosmetics, skincare, raw ingredients, formulation techniques, new concepts. Even those who don't work in beauty and cosmetics would find the show a fascinating one, given China's pronounced fascination and (occasionally questionable) innovation in beauty concepts.

 
 
International Museum Day is on May 18, and that usually means free entry to most museums in participating cities around the world. Here in Shanghai, that's meant free entry into up to 120 museums and galleries in past years, with discounted costs for others. The promo usually lasts for about 3 days, and many venues even extend their normal operating hours during this time.
 
 

JUNE

1) Eco Design Fair

 
From green weddings to hydroponics, bike rides to instant gardens, The Eco Design Fair sees a program of events and activities to promote environmental protection and sustainability practices in an entertaining way. There's food, home and lifestyle products on display, art installations, workshops and talks, and even an Eco Fashion Show.
 

2) Shanghai International Film Festival 

 
The Shanghai International Film Festival shows a mixed bag of artsy films and blockbusters for two weeks every June. Inconsistencies notwithstanding, the SIFF surpasses expectations for a government run affair. 2016 marks its 19th year of running, and each year, the event gets bigger and attracts more Hollywood and A-List stars to help promote it.
 

3) Shanghai Pride Festival

 
The annual celebration of diversity and tolerance that is ShanghaiPRIDE also comes with a week-long festival packed with LGBTQ-friendly activities: lots of opportunities for networking, discussing issues, sharing ideas, viewing films and plays. The festival usually includes a mini film festival within its arts and culture branch, and is known to put together an excellent program of international films related to the LGBTQ communities.
 

4) Shanghai Fringe Festival 

 
Shanghai just launched its own version of the world-famous performance arts festival originating from Edinburgh. In 2016, the first of this localized Fringe saw 200 shows from a mixed bag of art forms: modern Chinese opera troupes, contemporary Czech playwrights, French comedic theater, and Australian circus performers. A performance stage next to Taiping Lake in Xintiandi was built just for the occasion, where free outdoor performances were staged.
 

5) CES Asia

 
The huge annual event and ensuing hubbub coming from the CES in Las Vegas could only mean that soon enough, Shanghai would want its very own Consumer Electronics Show. It's the tech world's most important show, which garners the most media and consumer attention worldwide. CES in Shanghai is meant to represent the Asian markets, so you'll see brands like Intel, Voxx, Audi, Mercedes and Monster alongside Chinese brands like Hisense, Foryou General Electronics, and JD.com. Expect curved flat screen TVs, drones, smartwatches, VR, self-piloted cars, and even shanzhai Google Glass.
 
 

JULY

1) Central Studios Summer Fair 

 
Ultra hip photo firm Central Studios hosts an annual Summer Fair that's particularly popular among the fashion, design, and photography crowds, attracting such a trendy group of visitors that even New York's "Fashion Bible" WWD shoots street style albums of the event for it's "They Are Wearing" photo column. The event itself sees a mixed bazaar of local designers and F&B, plus artwork and activities in collaboration with brands like Converse.
 

2) ChinaJoy

 
ChinaJoy, or the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference, is the largest digital entertainment expo held in Asia. It's packed with computer games and famous for its cosplay models. Thousands of people attend every year, many just to ogle the girls — though there are plenty of interactive displays and sample products to play with. It's open to the public, so anyone get can join in for a geektastic weekend spent indoors. 
 

3) Uniqlo T-Shirt Design Contest

 
Japanese casualwear brand UNIQLO hosts one of the best (and most straightforward) design competitions of the year — come up with the best new graphic for a t-shirt according to that year's theme, win a cash prize of 10,000usd. The theme is always something fun and widely loved by the general public, with past competitions using Star Wars, Nintendo, or rock music as their themes. And, of course, the shirt gets mass produced and sold in UNIQLO stores.
 
 
Mobile World Congress Shanghai is a mego expo covering the Asian mobile tech industry, with products and services exhibited in mobile gaming, accessories, devices, apps, and virtual reality. It's a good spot to scout up-and-coming start-ups in the region, plus attend panel discussions and keynotes featuring corporate bigwigs in Asia's tech industry.
 

5) ISPO Shanghai

 
The original ISPO in Munich, Germany has been running for almost five decades as the world's biggest show for athletic, health and fitness garments and products. ISPO Shanghai is of course much smaller than the original from whence it came, but for those who can't make it out to Germany, the local ISPO is a much, much smaller, albeit accessible way, to see the region's offerings. 
 
 

AUGUST

 
 

1) Intertextile [Autumn]

 
The second run of the year for one of the world's most important and comprehensive trade fairs for the apparel and home textiles industry. This Shanghai edition is Asia's largest. Intertextile holds separate events for the two categories, and is especially strong in the home textiles sector — interior designers and lifestyle product producers consider it a must-see. 
 

2) Shanghai Book Fair

 
This annual fair sees thousands of publishers, bookstores, stationary companies, media, and book lovers nationwide gathering in Shanghai over the week. Visitors can expect large discounts on books, plus international authors and literature professors giving speeches and hosting forums. The organizers really upped their game in 2016, scheduling 700+ events throughout seven days and booking Pulitzer Prize-winning American fiction writer Junot Díaz, plus poets like Sharon Olds, Terrance Hayes, Sean O'Brien, and Víctor Rodríguez Núñez to talk at venues across town.
 

3) LuxeHome Shanghai

 
This show is for design brands and manufacturers producing products in the upmarket or custom-made lifestyle sector: furniture, gifts & handicrafts, home furnishings & textiles, leather products, and crafts. There are also sections displaying kitchenware, lighting solutions, plus bathroom fittings and accessories. 
 

4) International Lighting Fair

 
Likewise, during the same month is the fair for all things lighting: products and materials for outdoor lighting, commercial lighting, residential lighting, plus lighting accessories, LED technology and new concepts in electrical goods. This one's put on by Messe Frankfurt, the expo organizing behemoth from Germany that is responsible for many of the biggest trade shows across the world. 
 

SEPTEMBER 

1) PHOTOFAIRS

 
The first China-based international art fair dedicated solely photography — Photo Shanghai may have rebranded to PHOTOFAIRS|Shanghai but it's still poised to be the city's top art fair for photography spanning vintage to contemporary. Featuring prominent photography-focused galleries from all over the world, the fair also includes talks and programs done in conjunction with major entities like WPO (World Photo Organization) and The Art Newspaper.
 

2) Art in the City

 
This city-wide festival encompasses a few activities spread throughout town — at the center is the Art in the City Exhibition, which typically takes place at Chi in K11 Art Mall. This central exhibition is an art/design combo themed on a particular topic, with exhibitions curated by participating Shanghai galleries. In addition to this are tours to the city’s art spots, private studio visits, and parties. The best way to keep updated on all that is to download the interactive Art in the City maps and apps.
 

3) 48 Hour Film Fest

 
The 48 Hour Film Project is an annual event that happens simultaneously in cities across the world. Filmmakers both amateur and professional gather to create a movie—that is write, shoot, edit and score, the whole she-bang—in just two days. After the weekend wraps up, the organizers screen all the movies and announce the winning team at an awards event — it's all usually great fun whether or not you're involved in making the films.
 

4) China International Furniture Expo

 
This mega-expo combines the following shows: Office Furniture China, Home Furnishing China, Design of Designers and Furniture Manufacturing & Supply China. Each one is held in its own hall at Shanghai Exhibition Centre. This is the event to be at if you're into ogling (and purchasing) contemporary furniture, upholstered furniture, European furniture, classical Chinese furniture, outdoor, home, office furniture, et cetera, et cetera. 
 

5) Shanghai Design Week

 
The city government has been running a Shanghai Design Week event for years now, but since the privately-run Design Shanghai came on the scene in 2014, it's never quite carried on with the same luster. Nowadays Shanghai Design Week doesn't go for the glitz and glam that Design Shanghai pushes, but rather focuses on Chinese designers and indie brands. Some years it's pretty alright, others, not so great — a bit of a gamble, but still worth checking out for design professionals if at the very least to see what their peers are doing within the Mainland. 

 
 
This annual design competition, organized by CBi China Bridge, recognizes the individuals and companies behind recent designs that have met with success in the Chinese market, taking into account everything from conception to commercial outcome. The Awards span a huge number of design disciplines including architecture, interiors, branding, and product divided into five categories: product & service design, transportation, visual transmission, fashion design and spaces. The awards ceremony in September is kind of a big deal for designers living in Shanghai, especially those coming from the mid-size and boutique agencies.
 

8) Click Z Live

 
This mega conference and workshop series (its organizers call it a "boot camp") spans 2 days, covering digital marketing trends, techniques, and technology in the Chinese market. Click Z gathers pretty esteemed people from the top tiers of major marketing and consumer brands to provide their talks and presentations on everything from analytics, content marketing, social campaigns, mobile video, programmatic buying, virtual reality, etc. — hence the hefty entry prices, which start at 600 usd (or 4000rmb).
 
 

OCTOBER 

1) TEDx Shanghai Women

 
TEDx is the independently organized offshoot of the TED talks organized and presented by the official TED organization. TEDxWomen is the only globally connected version, which sees hundreds of cities across the globe hosting events with a shared theme, usually in relation to women in the workforce or innovating in ways that make society stronger, better...faster? The local chapter is headed by some of the head women honchos over at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Shanghai, and tends to pull a crowd of similarly high accomplishing women in both its roster of speakers and its audience. Best way to stay up to date is through the FaceBook page here.
 

2) Shanghai Fashion Week

 
The Autumn installment of Shanghai Fashion Week: Shanghai's twice yearly fashion week sees a slew of local and international designers holding runway shows and after-parties, with bigger names in participation every year — Diesel, Astrid Andersen, Giambattista Valli have all participated in recent editions, alongside the best of native Chinese designers like Fake Natoo, Helen Lee, and Zhang Da. Events are invite-only through the designer, brand, or PR rep, though it's pretty easy to get a ticket to see the runway shows through the scalpers milling about the event's main entrance in Xintiandi.
 

3) Interfiliere Shanghai

 
This is the world's biggest trade fair for lingerie (Interfiliere prefers the term "intimatewear"), swimwear, and activewear. It's got a signficant global reputation, with other editions held in Paris, Lyon, Hong Kong and New York. We're all professionals here, but in case any out there are wondering whether the event is filled with lingerie-clad models — it's not. Mostly mannequins and intimates laid out on bright displays here, though there is the occasional live model and short runway walk.
 

4) Shanghai International Arts Festival

 
This government organized arts festival sees loads of live performances and events across three main categories: drama, dance and music. There's usually lots of opera and orchestra performances if you're into that, and a few events for the kids as well (such as children's theater and acrobatics).
 

5) UX/UI Conference

 

2016 will see its first UI/UX Conference in China — two days of talks and activities covering design strategy, best practices and creative processes, presented by the movers and shakers of some of the city's most prominent agencies and startups. It's being put together by the Shanghai branch of digital agency Wiredcraft, who are organizing the conference to mark the one-year anniversary of its monthly UI/UX Designers Meetup. Speakers in their previous events have included Design Leads & Creative Directors representing  the likes of Frog, Paypal, Google, and Starbucks.

 

NOVEMBER 

1) Salone del Mobile Shanghai

 
Salone del Mobile Milano is, of course, the agenda-setting design trade fair of which all design professionals are well acquainted — the product and furnishings fair of all product and furnishings fairs. This year will see the first edition held in Shanghai, and if you haven't heard of it yet, then sorry to break it to you: manufacturers and visitors can participate and attend by invitation only. The event will also have something called the SaloneSatellite, a "launch pad for young designers under 35". There will also be a Made in Italy section so that to show up the "best in Italian living".
 

2) Comic Con Shanghai

 
Yup — that same Comic Con from San Diego. It's here in Shanghai. Just started last year in 2015, in fact, organized by the same people who made the New York Comic Con, Bookcon, and the Star Wars Celebration Fan Festival. A line-up of well-known comic book artists and superhero/villian actors will be scheduled for meet-and-greets, talks, and signings. Our editors found it to be really well-executed, particular for its first China run. Every talk, discussion, and activity started on time, the setup was professional-looking and shanzhai-free. Loads of locals and foreign fans visited in cosplay, too. Good times all around.
 

3) Shanghai Barcamp

 
This is the biggest event of the year coming from local non-profit event organizers TechYizu: Shanghai BarCamp, the informal, user-generated "un-conference" that started in Silicon Valley as an antidote to boring, conventional tech conferences. BarCamp is open to anyone interested in participating and typically consists of a full day of talks, workshops, and presentations on topics related to technology, design, entrepreneurship, and social innovation, such as: making a DIY air filter, lessons from creating an ebook, and Drupal bootcamps.
 

4) Shanghai Biennale

 
One of the city's biggest cultural extravaganzas of the year: the Shanghai Biennale returns for its 11th edition this fall 2016. As usual, it's taking over the Power Station of Art museum and will include satellite exhibits, talks, and panel discussions. It's one of Shanghai's few massive events appreciated by the general populace and the highbrow crowd alike. This time, the Biennale will span three months and be curated by Indian artist / curator group Raqs Media Collective. A massive exhibition and program of events will explore the possibilities of South-South dialogue within the current scenario of a highly interconnected world.

5) West Bund Art & Design Fair

 
This is the first international fair in China to prominently feature both art and design exhibits. Or that's what its organizers tell us, anyway. It seems there are a lot of "China's first..." statements going around in these press releases. Anyhow, local and invited interational art galleries and design institutions gather to present their best works, plus there are usually panel discussions on topics such as art and design experiences, museum operations and art management.
 

6) Art021

 
Founded by PR director Bao Yifeng and former gallery director Kelly Ying, this high-end art fair, named after Shanghai's area code, is now in its fourth edition for 2016. If previous incarnations are anything to go by, expect a who's who of blue-chip international galleries, curated exhibitions and a stellar events program. 
 

7) Nordic Design Week

 
Nordic Design Week is a festival presenting design exhibits, seminars and workshops all focused on featuring on the works coming from designers and students in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. A large motivator for the way the exhibits are set up, as well as the talks, film screenings, and seminars organized as part of the festival, is to illustrate how "design is also a process, not just a product." Two thumbs up.
 

8) Inside 3D Printing Shanghai Expo

 
The Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo has city-specific editions across the globe, organized and hosted by the international events producing company Rising Media. The Shanghai version of this B2B trade show sees the producers and designers within the regional market gathering to show their latest tech, processes, and products as related to 3D printing.