ORDERS UP AT HONG KONG EVENT; U.S. PRESENCE SLIM

Byline: Josephine Bow

HONG KONG--The latest edition of Hong Kong Fashion Week here generated about $260 million worth of confirmed orders or orders under negotiation, a gain of 20 percent over a year ago, according to a tally by the show's organizers.
U.S. buyer presence at the show, staged last month, was negligible, though, according to exhibitors, and the upswing in orders may reflect growing business being done with thriving Asian economies, observers speculate. The light U.S. interest may also be a result of the continuing decline of Hong Kong-based manufacturing as a source for the U.S. market, as costs rise.
"We're getting serious buyers from Asia, Europe and especially South America. But no one from the U.S., which is just too price-sensitive at the moment," said Richard Hobbs, marketing manager of Purple Pin Designs, a casualwear specialist.
"Our U.S. buyers are looking for heavier-weight fabrics with new textures," said Greeny Cheung, senior merchandiser for Lap Tak Garment Factory, which makes private label classic women's silk separates for some U.S. department stores. "But when we come up with new weaves, they say they are too expensive."
However, the show itself is seen by some as not having much appeal for U.S. buyers.
"Fashion Week has the reputation of showing smaller, unimportant companies and is passed over by many U.S. buyers," said industry consultant David Birnbaum, author of the manual "How to Import Garments From Hong Kong."
"It's a pity because many of those smaller companies may be doing interesting things," he said.
The show, according to some critics, also suffers from a lack of focus because of a dual mandate--promoting sales for Hong Kong garment manufacturers and showcasing local fashion designers. While the major manufacturing houses favor commercial fashion, press-hungry local designers run to the other extreme, producing wild collections that sometimes border on the ridiculous.
Nevertheless, overall attendance for the four-day show, which ran through Jan. 21, was reported up by Fashion Week organizers, with a total of 22,900 local and 7,000 overseas buyers, compared with 22,000 and 6,300 respectively a year ago. Now in its 25th edition, the show, sponsored by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, became a twice yearly event in 1994.
The latest show, spread over four floors of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, boasted the largest-ever roster of exhibitors, with 590 local companies and 290 from overseas.
"Made in China" continues to be the hot regional story, constituting over half the overseas exhibitors, many with Hong Kong tie-ins. While total Hong Kong garment exports increased to $21 billion in 1993, up from $20 billion in 1992, direct Hong Kong exports accounted for 44 percent of the total, with the rest consisting of shipments dubbed as "re-exports" or "legal transshipments" of goods made elsewhere--most particularly, China--which for one reason or another can be shipped under Hong Kong quota.
Last year $8.5 billion of total Hong Kong exports and re-exports went to the U.S. But it seems that more and more major U.S. buyers with China production bases are dealing directly with the mainland and no longer shipping through Hong Kong.
As for trends at the show, fabrics with nap, texture and shine dominated. Sweater stands bulged with fancy yarns, including heavily washed angora-nylon and mohair sweaters, multicolored chenille pullovers and sexy body-hugging designs featuring fantasy polyester feather yarns.
Metallic and iridescent microfiber outerwear stood out in salable silhouettes. Garment-washed flannels and fleeces were favorites for unisex casualwear collections.
--Fairchild News Service

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