HONG KONG — Buyers and suppliers at the Interstoff Asia textiles fair here said rising labor costs in China were becoming an increasingly heavy burden on them.
Manufacturers expressed concern over the increasing cost of production as a result of rising minimum wages and the need to provide better benefits to workers in Mainland China. Meanwhile, a decreasing supply of skilled factory laborers also weighed on their minds.
China does not set one uniform minimum wage. Instead, provincial, municipal or regional authorities determine them. The annual minimum wage rose 45 percent in Beijing to $2,140 and 32 percent in Shanghai to $2,440 from 2009 to 2011, according to a presentation by human resources management consultant Towers Watson.
“Rising wages are affecting us,” said Brenda Xu, a marketing-department manager at apparel and fabric supplier Concord Star, based in China’s Jiangsu province. “We now need to increase workers’ salaries, which results in a higher production cost on our end.”
Linda Liu, a project manager from Hong Kong-based Early Light Industrial, a company in the manufacturing, property, automotive and jewelry industries, said rising labor costs were a significant issue. Minimum wages keep increasing in Mainland China, said Liu, whose department produces clothes for dolls. Meanwhile, younger people are becoming less inclined to work in factories, so the pool of skilled workers is shrinking. To keep the existing skilled labor, factories must provide more attractive terms of employment.
“In addition to there being fewer skilled workers, the salaries are increasing,” she said. “We could pass on these costs to our clients, but the client has a limit in terms of pricing, too.”
But ballooning labor costs did not translate into bad news for all. Ringo Yeung, owner of Hong Kong textile trader Wing Hon, said there was now more opportunity for him to bargain.
“Their production costs have increased, and it’s more difficult for them, so they need more orders,” he said, referring to textile manufacturers.
While last year textile prices were a significant concern due to high cotton prices, buyers reported seeing only a negligible increase this year. Liu estimated the prices that exhibitors quoted at the fair were 7 to 8 percent higher than those last year, a rise that she said was not significant. Yeung said prices had not risen much since last year.
As for trends, a team led by Kai Chow, creative director for trend and forecasting company Doneger Creative Services, forecast that the coming season would bring bouclés and basket weaves in neutrals; shiny floral jacquards, knits and mohair in pastel colors; taffeta, lacquered jacquards, matelassés, burnished brocades, coated fur and velvets in deep, dark gemstone colors, and compact jerseys, tweeds, plaids, checks and plush in bright red, cobalt blue and red-orange mixed with blacks and browns.
Yeung said he saw many functional fabrics, such as sweat-absorbing or antistatic materials.
Attendance seemed light, with half of the stalls appearing empty on the afternoons of the first and last days. Fair organizer Messe Frankfurt said 6,527 visitors attended and about 200 exhibitors showed at the fall edition of Interstoff Asia Essential at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, which ended its three-day run on Oct. 5.
“The attendance is less than I thought it would be,” said Liu, who was on her 10th visit to Interstoff.
Attendees said lower-than-expected visitor numbers were a feature not only of Wednesday but of recent editions of the event. Between 6,000 and 8,000 visitors went to the fall shows from 2006 to last year. The spring edition attracted slightly more visitors, between 7,000 and 9,000. Exhibitor numbers for fall and spring editions of the fair have fluctuated between 200 and 270 for those years.
During the fair, Mainland China was on an eight-day “Golden Week” holiday to celebrate National Day, and Hong Kong was just emerging for its first day of work Wednesday from a long weekend of Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day celebrations.
Wilmet Shea, trade fairs group manager at Messe Frankfurt Hong Kong, said attendance to the fall fair had remained stable, around 6,000, for several years.
“There hasn’t been a big drop,” she said.
In spite of the talk about turnout rates, it is not the deal clincher for some.
“The number of people is not so important,” said Samuel Lee, chief executive officer of Texmill, a South Korean textile supplier. “It’s the quality of the customer that counts.”
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast