BEIJING — European styling in fabrics and apparel will target China’s domestic consumer market across many of the major China and Hong Kong textile and apparel trade shows in the second half, but exports remain king.

This story first appeared in the May 21, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Trade show organizers and product manufacturers said the Chinese domestic market is more important than ever to garment and textile manufacturers, but overseas sales are a brass ring for producers. The summer and fall are already packed with trade shows across China and Hong Kong, with organizers upbeat about the potential for making new connections and contracts.

OEM, or “original equipment manufacturer,” which has become standard jargon to describe companies that create specific products designed by customers, is not the bright light it once was for China’s factories.

Many factory owners are pushing to create their own brands, in some cases bringing on European designers to add expertise and creative flair. Trade show visitors can expect to see a push for newly minted Chinese brands at exhibits in the next year.

“Building your own brand is a trend for Chinese clothing manufacturers, as OEM has too little added value,” said a spokeswoman for Mode Shanghai, which runs Oct. 15 to 17. “In order to survive, they have to build their own brands.”

From fabrics to intimate apparel, brand building is a key trend for Chinese companies. Rarely will these brands expect to start off with sales in the U.S. and Europe, however, but they’ll more likely be looking for customers closer to home that can supply a steady stream of orders.

“We want deeper involvement in the domestic market and the best way to do that is to invest in R&D to make our own brand,” said Lau Fangjin, a marketing manager with a 10,000-employee bra factory near Shantou in southern China.

Lau said the entire industry is headed toward brand creating rather than simply filling orders, particularly as the Chinese market grows more important to maintaining and increasing profits.

“OEM orders can be too inconsistent when the company already has problems keeping staff at the plant,” he said.

On broader terms, southern China will retain its prowess in the next year as a prime location for important trade shows and industry events.

The spokeswoman for Mode Shanghai said Shanghai is growing in importance as a global fashion capital, and the show, which will host 200 vendors, aims to keep pace with that trend, working to position itself as a cutting-edge connector.

“Mode aims to enhance cooperation with buyers, mainly in China and covering other countries in Asia, to help connect buyers and manufacturers,” she said.

Also in Shanghai, Intertextile Apparel Fabrics, set for Oct. 20 to 23, is coming off a record-year attendance in April and positioning itself for another major show this fall.

“Despite the challenges in the global economy, the textile industry in this region remains upbeat, as evidenced by the growing participation here,” said Wendy Wen, senior general manager of the fair. “It also shows that the positioning of the fair, with its focus on functional and eco-fabrics, and highlighting the strengths of various European and Asian countries, is resonating with the industry.”

Karine Van Tassel, organizer of Spinexpo Shanghai, which runs Sept. 2 to 4, said export sales are still critical to the fair’s vendors, 80 percent of which have sales outside of China. The fair will key on new technology and Van Tassel said several areas are drawing particular interest.

“We see a lot of interest toward active-jersey products…functional and technical yarns fitting the fashion issued from activewear and all the research on new technology,” she said. “This garment direction is taking over the denim trend, more casual and repetitive, and this segment of products will need to react and evolve. We will have our own interpretation of both sectors at the shows.”

Japanese trade fairs are moving along with few changes since last season, although the overall economy and consumer sentiment seems to be on the rise. The country’s consumption tax increased from 5 percent to 8 percent in April, and while many retailers reported a surge in sales in March before the tax hike went into effect, as well as a drop in April sales, analysts largely believe the higher tax is unlikely to affect spending in the long term.

“While several consumer companies have already mentioned that sales had been brought forward in March and a slowdown should logically be expected in April, the tax hike seems to have been very far from the ‘shock and awe’ that many may have feared,” analyst Cathy Chao wrote in a note published by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp. on April 28. “Most brands have seen an improving trend across each week in April and one brand even expected sales growth to return to its January to February run rate by May.”

While the majority of trade shows in Japan are sticking to their usual formulas for this season, one fair is about to get a re-brand.

RoomsLink, which typically runs concurrently with Japan Fashion Week and features a combination of trade show booths, installations and runway shows, will be “reborn” with its October edition. Organizers have declined to release any details on the new incarnation until late June, but have said that it will include a name change as well as some edits to its concept and strategy.

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