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Tapping Tomorrow's Trends Today(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 03,2007)

 

 

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They came, they saw and were overwhelmingly delighted with the superb selection of sourcing and sales opportunities on offer at Asia's largest fashion fair.

Exhibitors and buyers alike were amazed by the variety and quality of the goods and services available at Hong Kong Fashion Week for Fall/Winter 2007 and World Boutique, Hong Kong, which ran concurrently from January 15-18 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

"We wanted to find Chinese producers and have identified 10-15 really interesting companies, which was a much better result than we expected," exclaimed Gwena?lle Clayeux-Wackenheim, general manager of French childrenswear manufacturer and distributor Clayeux Distribution S.A.

"We visit 4-5 fairs per season, mostly in Europe," she admitted. "This is our first visit to the Hong Kong fair, which is much bigger and offers much more choice than we expected - it's a very international event!"

She came to Hong Kong Fashion Week to source "everything from knitwear to watches" and identify mainland suppliers and products she is not able to produce in Europe.

"Our most popular product is jacquard knitwear, which makes up 33% of sales in terms of number of pieces," Clayeux-Wackenheim revealed, adding that the company also handles cashmere and denim items. "Sweaters and jackets are equally popular items."

Equally impressed was Syrian Loai Redai of 50-year-old Al-Redai Est, which specialises in wedding, evening and engagement dresses and ladies' casual wear, shoes and bags, accessories and costume jewellery.

"My main objective in coming to the fair is to source wedding and evening dresses," said Redai.

"I have found 4-5 high-level companies that suit my needs and at a good price - usually mainland suppliers provide dresses costing less than US$100 but this time I found US$150-500 dresses."

He was also successful sourcing fashion accessories such as brooches and pendants. "China is a very important supplier," Redai explained. "We used to buy Swarovski crystals but I have found new companies in China that will be very successful in the crystal field."

He believed this year's Fashion Week was "much better" than last year's as the same factories had better products this year, which bodes well for a recently-opened Syrian market that is now more European in outlook.

"There is a lot of competition in the Syrian market, which was previously closed but is now open to the world," Redai revealed. "Hong Kong is very, very important when it comes to sourcing and is more important than Europe - nowadays even European brands use China to source!"

Meeting "new suppliers and getting a good price" was also high on the agenda for Consuelo Valdivia from Guadalajara, owner of seven-store chain Pink, which provides "all sorts" of clothes for women and teenagers.

"I specifically targetted jackets and sweaters and casual wear and have found four suppliers who suit my needs and can fill 100,000-piece orders," the five-time visitor said.

Denim jeans are the most popular product in Mexico and will remain so, but Valdivia predicted cargo pants could be a new trend. "Next time I plan to expand and buy pants," she said, noting that this year's fair was bigger than previous events. "It's getting better each time with more choice and I'll definitely return."

Returnee Josm Luis Marin de Bes, president of both womenswear designer and manufacturer Selvatgi and the Spanish Apparel Federation, was also planning to return for the spring/summer edition.

"I previously attended last July's Hong Kong Fashion Week for Spring/Summer and got to know suppliers to do samples," he explained. "Next time I will collaborate with them to develop prototypes in Europe and send them to China to have samples prepared."

His company designs and produces two collections a year for active women 30-plus years of age for sale in two shops in Barcelona, though Marin de Bes plans to add five more outlets in Catalonia next year and stock them with products sourced in China.

"I came to Hong Kong to find new suppliers and organise an office to control production in China, which I will share with other companies keen to ensure product quality," he added.

Marin de Bes located a new supplier at Hong Kong Fashion Week and will shortly visit the factory to check on the product quality. "I have 10 suppliers in China and want to find better suppliers as I currently have a different supplier each season depending on product material such as silk, linen and rayon."

The hottest/most sought-after products in Spain are jeans, pullovers and T-shirts. "However, knitwear is most popular in our collection because the combination of colours is very attractive for all seasons and occasions," Marin de Bes believed.

He visits major European fairs such as Paris, Milan and London for new trends, and looks for suppliers rather than products at Hong Kong Fashion Week.

"Production is cheaper in China," Marin de Bes explained, noting that the industry is moving towards designing in Europe and producing in Asia. "The style of work is changing to fashion logistics rather than production."

This year's Hong Kong Fashion Week has been good for Marin de Bes, who also contacted agents to sell his Selvatgi label in China. "We want to open two shops on the mainland and are currently holding discussions with potential partners," he said.

Exhibitors such as second-time visitor Rachna Bawa, designer and CEO of New Delhi-based Anaya Collections, were also delighted with the business generated at Hong Kong Fashion Week for Fall/Winter 2007. "We had good contacts with buyers and a good response to our product line, which is exclusive and upmarket," he claimed.

Anaya also takes its scarves, shawls and handbags to other fairs, notably Pret-a-Porter in Paris and Magic, the international apparel and garment fair in Las Vegas, but believes Hong Kong attracts many buyers. "Here I see the buyers I see in Europe - the same buyers from Poland, the US and Canada I would meet in Paris," Bawa said.

Ponal Trading Corp manager David Tu is also ideally placed to compare the fall/winter Hong Kong event with other fashion trade shows.

"We go to Milan, Frankfurt and sometimes Basel," he said, adding that Hong Kong is becoming more and more popular. "It is very professional, so our company has changed its policy to give this fair a higher priority."

The imitation and costume jewellery supplier therefore raised a bigger budget to attend the Hong Kong fairs. "We found that a lot of customers here have more buying potential as bigger companies come to source from new suppliers," Tu claimed. "My colleagues also come here rather than to other fairs in Asia."

Ponal has obtained re-orders from a French department store, so Tu was pleased with the reaction. "Ninety-five per cent of our customers come from Europe, so this is by far the most active buying region and looks good for the future."

Tu also noted the colours demanded by trend-savvy buyers: "Very strong, contrasting black and white and grey are hot fashion colours now," he claimed.

Ponal has no representative in Hong Kong, so Tu regularly attends local fairs. "Last year was our first visit but we plan to participate in four fairs this year - January, March, June and September," he revealed.

US-based Shennel Trading Corp president Aris Ai takes his 13-year-old firm's ladies' silk fashion accessories, blouses, jackets and coats to other shows such as the Canton Fair.

"But here in Hong Kong there are a lot of customers from a lot of different countries," he said. "Here we have two directions for business, as suppliers and as buyers, because we are sourcing new products as well."

High-end customers such as Nordstrom, Chico's and QVC from major markets such as the US and Europe, especially Spain, mean Ai is "definitely" coming again next year. "We love it as we always get this great response," he enthused. "It is our third time to come to Hong Kong and we have taken two booths."

Fifty-year-old Taiwanese manufacturer San Sun Hat & Cap Co Ltd also visits a variety of fairs such as the ISPO sports and fashion show in Germany, the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City and Magic at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

"Many years ago when we went to the US and Europe we would find a lot of customers, but right now the buyers all come to Hong Kong and China so in the US and Europe you can meet the designers but not find the buyers," said vice-president of sales Tunghua Tai. "Also, a lot of firms have buying offices in Hong Kong."

Tai said a trend towards hi-tech textiles is clear and bodes well for the future. "My customers tell me that previously in Europe the market was 80% cotton textiles and 20% performance textiles but last year it was 50:50, which is a big and fast change," he averred.

"I believe in the future everyone will be wearing performance textiles, especially in sports."

One thing is certain - whatever happens in future, exhibitors and buyers will continue to visit the Hong Kong Fashion Week for Fall/Winter and World Boutique, Hong Kong to source and display the best products from around the world.

WRITTEN BY JAMES PALMER

 

FAST FACTS

Hong Kong Fashion Week for Fall/Winter 2007 and the concurrent World Boutique, Hong Kong again proved irresistible to exhibitors and buyers from all over the world.

The twin events staged at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from January 15-18 attracted a record 1,500-plus exhibitors from 24 countries and regions and some 44,000 key buyers.

The Hong Kong Trade Development Council's 38th winter fashion event featured several major draw cards:

  • Fashion Gallery - a focus for high fashion from Hong Kong and overseas
  • Garment and Accessories Mart - a cornucopia of mass merchandise
  • Body and Intimate Wear - up-to-date styles in bodywear, lingerie and underwear
  • Bridal and Evening Wear - extravagant outfits for special occasions
  • Infant and Children's Wear - a reflection of the growing importance of the younger market with clothing for babies and kids
  • Emporium de Mode - elegant booths showcasing quality clothing with unique designs
  • Spice Arena - smart fashion accessories including hats, shoes, ladies' scarves and handbags

Group pavilions hosted by the Chinese mainland, India, Korea, Macau and Taiwan underscored the importance of the second-largest fair of its kind in the world as an essential sourcing centre.

Hong Kong's total exports of clothing and accessories increased 3.4% to about US$25.8bn in the first 11 months of 2006, and look certain to set new records this year following the success of Hong Kong Fashion Week for Fall/Winter and World Boutique, Hong Kong.

The fifth edition of the latter exhibition spotlighted more than 400 top designer labels, fashion accessories and lifestyle products from 249 exhibitors representing 19 countries and regions.

First-time participants Austria, Mauritius, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and Ukraine emphasised the international nature of the World Boutique concept and its attraction to overseas buyers.

Runway shows by leading international designers such as Cecilia Yau, Moiselle and William Tang showcased the latest collections, branded fashion and accessories, while trend seminars conducted by Carlin Int'l and Peclers Paris targetted next season's big sellers.

A World Boutique highlight was the 30th Hong Kong Young Fashion Designers' Contest final, which saw 16 young local designers compete for 10 coveted awards in Casual and Jeans Wear, Contemporary Day Wear, Avant-Garde Collections and Party Wear categories.

Their eye-catching creations further enhanced Hong Kong's image as a fashion design centre and guaranteed that Hong Kong Fashion Week for Fall/Winter and World Boutique, Hong Kong, will continue to be "must-attend" events for exhibitors and buyers alike.