Byline: Josephine Bow

HONG KONG — European ready-to-wear labels continued their assault on Asia’s high fashion retail market at the first-ever “Europe Selection — The Stars of Fashion” trade fair, and they reported mixed results.
The three-day event, which ran through Thursday at the Hong Kong Exhibition Center, was jointly staged by organizers of Igedo and Ente Moda Italia. It brought 120 high-end Italian, German and other European fashion houses showing both men’s and women’s apparel to Hong Kong, many for the first time. The exhibitors emphasized the need for exposure and making new contacts in this potentially lucrative market as principal reasons for participating. At the same time, few firm orders were placed.
“The high-end Asian market is still limited, and our potential buyers are already ordering directly in Europe,” said an executive of Italian cashmere sweater manufacturer Cividini. Those already selling in Asia used the fair to meet with agents and develop regional expansion and distribution strategies.
Fair organizers claimed 2,000 serious buyers attended, with Hong Kong and Taiwan accounting for 85 percent of the total. Polling also revealed that over half of the buyers were looking to purchase exclusive European fashion for the first time. Differences in the Asian and European climates posted problems for a number of exhibitors. Most labels came to the fair showing their fall and winter collections. However, in many regions of Asia, buyers are looking for lightweight goods.
“One of our Thai customers who usually orders in Dusseldorf came into the stand, but he can only order summer,” said export manager Roger Mueller of Germany’s big Steilmann Group, which showed the KS Selection and younger, eco-friendly Britta Steilmann, It’s One World lines.
“Even though we work with other opposite-season markets like South America and Australia, the markets aren’t all at the same stage of development. This is a logistical production problem, but it can be solved. Flexibility is the key — otherwise you can’t export.”
Among the more upbeat exhibitors was Piano Piano Dolce Carlotta of Rome. The soft-look, feminine line, with lots of shaded layering and subtle contrasts, featured pieces such as a stretch velvet bodice atop a printed gauzy linen skirt or a lightweight pinstripe jacket over a full-length gently flounced skirt. “We know what the Asian women like — not too sexy or revealing, lots of long and flowing shapes and harmonious colors,” said a Piano executive.
In a gala that took place on the first day of the fair, Hong Kong high fashion retailing pioneer Joyce Ma, of Joyce Boutiques, was inducted into the Italian Fashion Hall of Fame. A large contingent of Italian manufacturers showing at “Europe Selection” attended the event in the ballroom of the Grand Hyatt here.
Established in 1989 by the Italian Institute for Foreign Trade and Ente Moda Italia, the award recognizes outstanding international contributions to the promotion and development of the Italian fashion industry.
Joyce Boutiques, which this year marks its 25th anniversary, introduced the region to top European fashion, including Italian labels Giorgio Armani, Fendi and Versace. They were later joined by Missoni, Genny, Prada, Romeo Gigli and Dolce & Gabbana. Over half of all goods sold in Joyce’s 29 fashion and lifestyle boutiques in Asia now originates from Italy.
The second Europe Selection is scheduled to be held Aug. 25-27 in Singapore’s new Suntec Convention Center. — Fairchild News Service

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