HONG KONG — After being hard hit by the global economic downturn in their traditional markets, exhibitors at the APLF Fashion Access fair said they are setting their sights on expanding into the Chinese market.
The footwear and accessories fair, held at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Center from Oct. 6 to 8, featured 354 exhibitors. The show’s organizer declined to release attendance figures.
Vicky V. Amalingan-Sales, chairman and marketing manager of Philippines-based woven handbag and clutch brand S.C. Vizcarra, said 2009 has been a difficult year.
“About 80 percent of our business comes from Japan, but this year we’ve seen a 50 percent drop in sales,” said Amalingan-Sales. “We’ve had to cut our prices by 10 to 15 percent to attract more customers. We can only hope things will get better next year, but we don’t see things picking up anytime soon.”
Price cuts have not been uncommon given the economic climate, and some have compromised on quality in a bid to stay in the game. Sally Chang, North America sales manager of Canadian handbag brand Gaya, said 30 percent of its retail clients have dropped their line since April.
“As a result, we’ve had to look at using cheaper materials,” said Chang. “In fact, we’ve removed all leather products from our upcoming summer collection to concentrate on vinyl synthetic totes and bags. At this point, we don’t know when things will pick up.”
Companies like Los Angeles-based leather handbag label Blue Elegance have adopted the opposite strategy. Owner Annie Lin said during periods of economic difficulty it was crucial for product to stand out in order to maintain sales.
“This year has actually been a very good year for us,” she said. “Instead of cutting back costs, we’ve invested more in sourcing higher quality leather and studs. Improving the quality of our products has really paid off and the response from our North American clients, which range from department stores to boutique retailers, has been incredibly positive.”
Handbags with distinctive hardware and embroidery such as studs, chunky buckles and sequins spurred the most buyer interest, as did small leather accessories in pastel lilac, wisteria and mauve.
Many handbag and accessories companies are also looking to enter the Chinese market as part of a strategy to offset dwindling demand from Europe.
Catherine Ma, a sales representative with Nu Design, which produces and exports small recyclable leather goods, said the year had a fairly slow start but started to pick up after May.
“Europe, our biggest market, was very badly hit. They were quiet for about six months,” said Ma. “We’re lucky we’re a small- to medium-sized factory that we can afford to be cost cautious. Factories operating on a larger scale were hit worse. That said, we are looking to enter the China market, but with caution.”
Despite the lure of the Chinese market, Ma said she was aware the brand must lay the groundwork to enter the country under the best circumstances possible.
“I know how lucrative the Chinese market can be, but we don’t want to jump into it,” she said. “We have to find the right partner and the right department stores that can represent our brand successfully. There are also pricing and taxation issues to consider.”
Matthew Chow, managing director of C-Corp International Co., a handbag manufacturer and distributor to Europe and the U.S., said the firm is also looking to enter the Chinese market.
“The problem with China is that it can take much longer to get anything done there as there is a lot of red tape involved,” said Chow. “A lot of people have lost a lot of money trying to crack China, but I believe if you push through, it can be worth it in the long run.”
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)
@Pharrell and his wife Helen Lasichanh were among the stars that came out to celebrate @rimowa’s first pop-up concept shop. The space, which is located on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, draws inspiration from airport luggage carousels and lounge areas – and features the company’s luggage and accessories. If the pop-up is successful it could pave the way for addition temporary shops throughout the world. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA)
@carineroitfeld celebrated @crfashionbook’s first calendar last night with a dinner party at Spring Place in Manhattan. Photographed by @stevenkleinstudio, the calendar takes on a fitness theme and features @joansmalls, @gigihadid, @danielle_herrington_ – pictured here – and more. “[Carine Roitfeld] wanted me to feel sexy and she wanted me to be myself and feel it out on my own and do what I felt was right,” said Herrington, aka Miss October. #wwdeye
@saintrecords and @virgilabloh last night at @americanexpress’ “A Night With Success Makers” event. “I always bring it back to community because without that I wouldn’t have the courage,” said Knowles when asked how she has gotten where she is now. Read more highlights from their conversation on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lizdoupnik)
This Just In: Industry sources have told WWD that Anastasia Soare is rumored to be considering selling her beauty business, @anastasiabeverlyhills. According to those sources, Soare has tapped investment bank Imperial Capital to explore sale options for her eponymous beauty brand –– and with at least $340 million in net sales, this would be a big deal. Put in context of other recent transactions for makeup companies, Soare’s price tag could be in the billions if she were to sell the whole thing. #wwdnews #wwdbeauty (📷: @clint_spaulding)
@assouline’s latest book, “The Spirit of Bentley: Be Extraordinary” captures the adventurous attitudes and opulent lifestyles of @bentleymotors’ most creative owners and enthusiasts throughout the U.K. The 292-page hardcover has a section dedicated to showing its team of skilled artisans and photos of its most colorful owners, from George Bamford to designer @alicetemperley, pictured here by Aline Coquelle. #wwdeye
@google released its report on the most popular search terms this year. For fashion brands, the list was led by @gucci, the luxury brand that stunned the market last October when it pledged to stop using fur. Runner ups were @supremenewyork and @fashionnova, along with more established brands like @louisvuitton, @chanelofficial and @ysl. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)