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HONG KONG — With the completion of its second edition here last month, The Hub trade show appears to be gaining traction as an important link for niche brands seeking to expand into the Asian market.
This year’s show, held Feb. 25 to 27 at the AsiaWorld-Expo, attracted 118 brands, up 20 percent from the inaugural show in August. Most labels were from Europe, but there was an increase in brands from Asia, especially China, looking for international exposure. In line with the last edition of the fair, about 3,000 people attended the event, organizers said.
Hub cofounder Richard Hobbs noted that there were more buyers from China this year.
“Our show is not about filling the aisles with people, it’s about business and having conversations,” he said.
Among the buyers was Ewing Cheng, who owns the men’s wear shop Delstore in Hong Kong. At the first show he discovered the European brand Swims and said the Norwegian shoes have proved popular in his two stores.
“We are very selective about what we choose, and each season we see something new we like here,” said Cheng.
He said he wasn’t surprised to see more Mainland buyers at the show. “It’s easy for Chinese buyers to visit, they don’t have a visa problem like with other countries. And they don’t have the import tax problem because in Hong Kong they can arrange some logistics to help them send the goods back to China,” he said.
British label Hancock exhibited at the first show in August and was among a number of brands that returned. “We were able to get some orders from Japan last time. We’ve shipped and delivered — it’s an ongoing relationship. And that’s what we’re here for — the longevity and seeing what comes out of that,” said Hancock representative Tony Magnetic.
Also back again this year was Spanish label Desigual. Headquartered in Barcelona, the label is expanding in Asia and has a base in Hong Kong and two major markets in the region, Japan and Singapore. “It’s been a good experience for us. Last time we caught the attention of the local Hong Kong audience, and it also brought people from other places, like China. It’s a good chance for exposure and increasing brand awareness,” said a Desigual spokeswoman.
A new layout with expanded space for seminars addressed the demand Hobbs and cofounder Peter Caplowe have seen for information and discussion about key industry issues from the need for multibrand retail in China to how to improve stores’ operating results.
Also new to the show was The Greenhouse, a stand-alone space within the fair dedicated to up-and-coming designers that attracted 27 new labels. Among them was Beijing’s Chi Zhang, who founded his men’s and women’s wear collections in 2009 and is known for experimenting with avant-garde concepts. His current collection features gas masks, a nod to the Chinese capital’s notorious air pollution.
“This is a chance for me to get more exposure. I already have some buzz in China,” the designer said. “I want to get known across Asia and beyond.”
Prerna Chainani-Monsen, founder of New York-based Maison Monsen, said The Greenhouse format made exhibiting her first collection a possibility. “As a young designer, committing to an entire booth, at least on my first foray, is a little daunting. This way I can sit among my peers in a department-store setup,” she said.
Fashion consultant and blogger Bénédicte Bro-Cassard attended the show on behalf of the Association of Brazilian Designers, which is eyeing the China market and considering participating in the next show.
“There’s not enough women’s ready-to-wear for me. Their forte is men’s wear, but we are 90 percent women’s wear,” said Bro-Cassard.
Many exhibitors said there was nothing that came close to The Hub in Asia. Australia-based Duncan Curnow, director at Sea Salt Life, was at the show representing five European brands and said word about the show was spreading fast.
“In Australia there is only one fashion show — Fashion Exposed — and it’s not hitting the right market; it’s not cool and international enough. I don’t think there’s anything which has really stood out in Asia, so The Hub has a lot of potential,” Curnow said.
The next Hub will be held Aug. 28 to 30.