HOW do you judge the year's 10 Best-Dressed Personalities in Hong Kong? Do you start by defining ''best-dressed'' and ''personality''? Are points slashed for every visible megabucks label . . . piled on for local designer garb? Spare yourself the tedium of mulling over these imponderables. The Hong Kong Fashion Designers' Association (HKFDA) insists on its List at its yearly bash and nothing short of a mortar attack on the World of Joyce is likely to change that.
Also enshrined in the HKFDA's annual fashion show, recently celebrated at the Regent Hotel, is its inspirational opening segment. This year it was dedicated to Shanghai which gobbled socialites for breakfast back in the days when Hong Kong was still subsisting on congee.
As with the List, preparations for this mini-extravaganza become increasingly fraught as the designers agonise over how to best interpret the theme, while capturing the undivided attention of the press photographers.
Everything is fair in love and fashion warfare, as one designer demonstrated by mounting an escapee from Jurassic Park on the back of her model. Nice one, Ika.
Now to the serious part of the 1993 HKFDA Fashion Show, also known as the Pearl of China: the collections - which in this case are by 14 of the association's 34 members.
By what criteria are they chosen? Rumours of bitter diviseness reach the press periodically, but it doesn't serve to get personal. The important thing to understand is that this is a group show and not a bunch of comprehensive collections - clearly impossible bar a three-day marathon.
In these hard-pressed times, the HKFDA's solution is eminently sensible, but has its drawbacks. Variations on a theme - the usual approach - may look better than a cross-section on stage, but tends to give only a taste of what a designer has created for a season and may bear little or no resemblance to what will be flogged to the public.
So what? Paris does it all the time. Besides, capsule collections are a great test of ingenuity, even if they do remind one of student fashion graduation exercises.
Not every designer taking part in the HKFDA's latest extravaganza emerged triumphant, but one thing impressed enormously: a clear sense of identity both as individuals and as Hong Kong designers.
It's hard to pinpoint - East Meets West is grossly simplistic - but something intrinsic to this extraordinary metropolis has definitely emerged in the local designer scene.
Some like William Tang, who combined romance and wry humour in his Victorian-inspired gowns and Flora Cheong-Leen who took costume drama over the top and beyond, scored through sheer force of personality.
Others like Polly Kam with her silky tone-on-tone layers, Allan Chui with his arctic outfits, Benny Yeung with his bridal collection and Judy Mann with her China-flavoured ensembles for that overworked creature, the executive woman, went the commercial way with style.
There were also hints of woman-as-sex-object (Rowena U and her beloved leather and chains), some lingering 70s nostalgia (Eldy Pang) and a couple who defied categorisation (Laurence Tang and Ika), though in two important respects all 14 succeeded: not a tacky-looking garment in terms of fabric or finish, and commercial possibilities in every collection.
Occasionally, a single item stood out - Tang's deceptively prim evening coat, Ika's delicious beaded bolero - while other times an entire collection, such as Walter Ma's, looked ready for the racks.
Whether or not they succeed, the coming weeks will tell. But one thing is sure: Hong Kong fashion design has become a lively affair.