HONG KONG — As trade shows continue to pop up to accommodate China’s continuing prominence in the global market, Hong Kong is still relevant as a safe window to the mainland.
As a special administrative region, Hong Kong is a neutral city with freedom of movement for capital, said Michael Duck, director of Asia Pacific Leather Fair Ltd. and senior vice president of show manager CMP Asia.
The territory also attracts a different kind of buyer compared with its larger neighbor.
In a survey, exhibitors at APLF’s fashion accessories fair, Fashion Access, reported that they felt safer meeting buyers at the show, in part because there were fewer low-end manufacturers who might copy their collections, said Perrine Ardouin, senior event manager for APLF. The show groups its higher-end products in the Topstyle and Fashion Avenue areas.
Fashion Access will be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from March 28 to 30.
Buyers in Hong Kong also know exactly what they want and are more familiar with textiles and the market, said Katy Lam, director of trade fairs for Messe Frankfurt in Hong Kong. Buyers in China are greener and need more exposure to options, she added.
Lam described Messe Frankfurt’s Interstoff show in Hong Kong as a “more mature show and more mature market” compared with its Intertextile shows in Shanghai and Beijing, which are much bigger so buyers and exhibitors can see as much as possible.
The spring edition of Interstoff Asia — now in its 20th year — takes place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from March 14 to 16. Intertextile Beijing will run concurrently with the Yarn Expo from March 22 to 24 at the Beijing Exhibition Center and China World Trade Center, respectively. Intertextile Shanghai will open in October.
Lam also noted a difference in how attendees buy in Hong Kong versus the mainland.
“Autumn and spring aren’t so
defined in Beijing and Shanghai,” Lam said, adding that it will take some time for that to change as the China market becomes more
For now, buying tends to follow geographical influences — weather can be incredibly diverse in China — more than seasonal trends. Down the line, a better understanding of design and fashion, as well as more disposable income for consumers, will increase the demand for seasonal products, Lam said.
With the disposable income that the Chinese have amassed, they already are starting to look for higher-end products, said CMP Asia’s Duck. To that end, APLF is
trying to advise European producers of shoes and accessories attending Fashion Access that Hong Kong has strong sales potential. He said that Hong Kong, where a lot of mainland Chinese come to shop, is Spanish footwear’s largest per-capita market.
For now, Asian designers don’t have “critical mass,” Duck said, but he “feels very strongly that Asian elements will come to the fore” as more people graduate from local design schools. “We hope we’ll be able to promote this.”
Hong Kong Fashion Week, which will occur Jan. 15 to 18 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, has long focused on design.
“Though the global fashion trend is still largely led by European designers, we do see that Asian designers are getting more attention and making a strong influence in recent years,” said Anne Chick, senior exhibitions manager for the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.
Chick cited Anna Sui, Issey Miyake, Vera Wang and Hong Kong’s Vivienne Tam, Flora Cheong-leen and Barney Cheng as well known in the international
fashion scene. Korean designers also are getting attention, she added.
“We think that, in time, global buyers will accept more Asian designers,” Chick said. “After all, Asia is growing in market size and status in the world.”
HKFW will boast three new zones next year: Spice Arena for accessories, Infant and Children’s Wear and Emporium de Mode for high-end clothing with unique designs.
The Trade Development Council also organizes World Boutique, which runs concurrently with HKFW and sponsors the Hong Kong Young Fashion Designers’ Contest, now entering its 30th year. The fair, which always includes a bevy of fashion shows, also will review the last 40 years of Hong Kong’s fashion industry.
Hong Kong has proven itself a solid market for China Sourcing: Fashion Accessories, as well.
The show made its debut in April this year, grew by 50 percent for its October show and the April 12 to 15 installment at AsiaWorld-Expo is expected to continue growing, said Sarah Benecke, global sources director.
More than 800 booths will take up two halls at the new exhibition center near the airport. Offerings include handbags, hats and caps, belts, fashion jewelry, footwear, luggage and swimwear. There also will be new pavilions for legwear and baby and children’s accessories.
According to Benecke, fashion accessories is a fast-growing industry in China. With very few shows catering to this group, Benecke has “found that good news spreads,” she said. For example, after a couple of belt manufacturers from Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, which is known for belts, attended the first show, their numbers have increased to more than 20 for the October show.
Half of the buyers at China Sourcing: Fashion Accessories are based in Hong Kong, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re local, but possibly are from buying offices of international companies that are headquartered here. Total traffic is evenly split between local and international attendees, Benecke said.
The show focuses on medium- to high-end goods. The big-volume, low- and medium-priced goods are sourced from China, while the very decorative, smaller runs are from other countries, she said. The show includes exhibitors from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines and India.
With so many trade shows occurring in Hong Kong and on the mainland, the competition to attract attendees is fierce. Many shows are seeking to stand out with specialized offerings.
Interstoff Asia-Spring will increasingly focus on value-added products, such as functional fabrics and so-called eco textiles.
APLF-Materials, Manufacturing and Technology also will feature the development of functional fabrics for shoes and sportswear. The leather fair, which will take over three halls at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from March 28 to 30, is organized by APLF.
Also on APLF’s calendar is the second Prime Source Forum on March 29 to 30. Topics and speakers haven’t yet been finalized for this networking event for the international apparel industry, but an advisory board including Robert Zane, chairman of USA-ITA and former chief executive officer of Liz Claiborne, and Kevin Burke, president and ceo of the American and Apparel Footwear Association, has been set up to vet topics.
The industry “is so fast moving, [we] can’t set the topics yet,” Duck said, adding that the agenda should be finalized in a couple of months.
Around 500 attendees, split among Asia, Europe and the U.S., are expected at the 2007 event, more than double the 240 who participated this year. Organizers scrapped the concurrent Prime Source trade show for next year due to a lack of traffic. However, APLF-MMT and Fashion Access will be held concurrently with the forum. In other trade show changes, in September Messe Frankfurt established a specialized team of three people to keep abreast of industry topics to present during seminars. “We want to do [the seminars] even better,” Lam said, adding that Interstoff seminars are comprehensive, with topics on design and trends, policies and technology.