20 Sept 2016
Asian Design Shines at CENTRESTAGE
Fashion is a US$1.2 trillion business, and Asia represents an increasing chunk of the industry both from the consumer and design end. As a regional hub for the fashion industry, Hong Kong provided the ideal setting to spotlight four of Asia’s hottest emerging designers, who took centre stage at Hong Kong’s new premier event for designer brands.
Hong Kong’s Mim Mak, Simon Gao from Beijing, Ko Taeyong of Seoul, and the design duo of Pongsak Suprratccheep and Thita Kamonnetsawat from Bangkok, showcased their Spring/Summer 2017 collections at the inaugural CENTRESTAGE ELITES gala show.
For Chinese designers, “we want to be on par at the international level,” said Mr Gao, who showcased his “Kungfu Disco” collection, which blended traditional Chinese kungfu elements with Western music culture. “Our strategy is to participate in international shows so people can feel our passion.” He added that understanding the global culture is important to be in tune with today’s consumer aspirations.
Organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the fashion gala kicked off the four-day international fashion event CENTRESTAGE. The inaugural show provided a launch pad for international, especially Asian, fashion brands to showcase their latest collections, with some 200 brands taking part, including heritage brand Aquascutum, Italy’s ANTEPRIMA, Japan’s ATSURO TAYAMA and Nordic label Marimekko.
Hong Kong designs were also prominently displayed, including from contemporary menswear label Harrison Wong. The Hong Kong designer’s 2017 Spring/Summer collection featured creations inspired by 1930s Bauhaus style, integrating graphic art elements into a 1980s silhouette.
“I use interesting fabric not usually used in menswear,” said Harrison Wong, who this year debuted at New York Fashion Week as part of the HKTDC’s Fashion Hong Kong. “My silhouette is quite basic, but the fabric is interesting, such as cotton lace, so it looks a bit different from normal menswear.”
Mr Wong sees strong potential in the Chinese mainland menswear sector, which is among his target markets, along with South Korea and Japan. “It’s quite obvious in China now that the men are very trendy, so I think it’s quite a big market as well.”
Mainland brands exhibiting at CENTRESTAGE, such as lifestyle label JNBY, meanwhile see potential expanding in Asia. “Hong Kong is at the forefront of Asian fashion,” said Lydia Tan, JNBY Business Manager, “As a Chinese brand, Hong Kong is an important platform for us to increase our brand awareness internationally.” Established in 1994, the Hangzhou-based men’s, women’s and children’s wear brand, has more than 400 stores on the mainland, as well as in about a dozen overseas cities.
“We believe Hong Kong is a big market, very creative and accepting of new things,” said Ms Tan. “Even though we’re an important brand on the mainland, we’re not so well known overseas. We want to reach department store buyers, distributors and multi-brand owners. We also hope to meet Southeast Asian buyers and partners and are open to cooperate in different ways.”
More than 50 events were held at CENTRESTAGE, including about 30 runway shows and several trend forecasting seminars, which discussed upcoming trends for the Asia-Pacific market.
According to Erica Ng, Senior Editor Retail Intelligence specialising in the Asia-Pacific region for trend forecaster WGSN, the millennial consumer generation is “maturing and reaching their peak purchasing years,” and should be a key target market for retailers. Ms Ng noted that millennials have an “increasingly ambiguous relationship with ownership,” and prefer “experiences over simply purchasing and owning things.” Dubbing millennials “generation rent,” she said that 68 per cent of consumers are now willing to rent their personal belongings for profit and treat clothes as assets rather than personal goods with sentimental value. To respond to this trend, she said retailers can capture market share by offering subscription-style services and curated selections to cater to this group, which is often inundated with “too many options and too little time.”
Buyers from major department stores, including Italy’s La Rinascente and Harvey Nichols Riyadh attended the show to source the latest designs from Asia. “The business-matching service introduced Hong Kong’s I.T Group to me,” said Andrea Bonecoo, Buying Manager, La Rinascente SpA. “We held useful talks to exchange ideas and establish initial contact. This show is the start of our effort to get to know more about Asia.”
Asian boutiques also tapped the Hong Kong show for the latest styles to cater to the region’s growing middle class. Indonesian fashion boutique Lucy House placed an initial 100-piece order with Hong Kong designer Dorian Ho. “CENTRESTAGE has brought together some appealing designer brands,” said boutique operator Lucy Kurniawan. “I will definitely visit the show again next year.”
Balancing Creativity with Marketability
CENTRESTAGE wrapped up with the 40th edition of the Hong Kong Young Fashion Designers’ Contest. Kenneth Cheung was the overall champion, winning over judges with his military-inspired collection “No Country for Old Man.”
Over the years, YDC has helped identify young Hong Kong talent, many of whom have gone on to work for major international labels or have set up their own brand.
As part of his prize, Mr Cheung was awarded a one-month internship with Japanese label FACETASM, whose founder and designer Hiromichi Ochiai served as this year’s VIP judge. The Japanese designer and LVMH Prize finalist praised the overall performance of the 17 YDC finalists, adding that the champion clinched the award by balancing creativity and marketability in his design.
An onsite survey commissioned by the HKTDC during the event showed nearly 60 per cent of buyers were cautiously optimistic about the industry’s retail outlook in 2017. The survey of 270 exhibitors and buyers found that nearly half of the respondents were engaged in e-tailing. Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea are believed to hold the best growth prospects among traditional markets in the coming two years, while 60 per cent consider the mainland to be the most promising among emerging markets.