Taking a big step forward

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 March, 2012, 12:00am


Asia's premier trade fairs for leather materials, technology, fashion and accessories, and a forum for the apparel and footwear industries' leading lights are set to generate synergy in the global fashion sector.

From today until Friday, prominent international players in the leather, fashion and footwear industries will converge in Hong Kong to present upcoming fashion trends at Materials, Manufacturing & Technology (MM&T), Fashion Access, and Prime Source Forum 2012 (PSF). The three events are being held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

MM&T and Fashion Access originate from the Asia-Pacific Leather Fair, which debuted in 1984. Anticipating the new sourcing trend, fairs organiser APLF split the leather fair into two, so that MM&T caters for manufacturers of leather products, while Fashion Access targets buyers of finished products, says Perrine Ardouin, the organiser's event director.

More than 400 key players use PSF as a platform to exchange ideas and solutions, and set the industry's future direction.

'This year, the forum's scope broadens to include the footwear industry and will leverage even more synergy of the leather sector. Footwear sector heavyweights, such as Ronald Fromm, chairman of the board of Brown Shoe Company in the United States, will be among the keynote speakers at the forum,' she says.

With more than 1,200 exhibitors from 50 countries and regions, showcasing products covering the entire spectrum of the industry - from raw and finished skins, dyes and chemicals, to equipment and processes - MM&T is the world's preeminent leather sourcing platform. All major leather production centres in Europe and North and South America have a presence. Among the new exhibitors are companies from Ecuador, Nicaragua and Paraguay, aiming to tap the soaring demand for luxury goods in Asia, Ardouin says.

To help make it an even more fruitful sourcing experience for buyers, the fair features several product category zones. One section gathers suppliers of finished and semi-finished leather materials. Another groups suppliers of tanning and processing materials, chemicals, technologies and machinery. There is also a section dedicated to synthetic materials. Turkey is the fair's 'focus country' this year and exhibitors from the country will enjoy additional on-site promotion and increased fashion trend display spaces devoted to their products, on top of intensive buyers' invitations prior to the fair.

As the trend-setting event, MM&T unveils its 'Sourcing Luxury' exhibition which puts the spotlight on raw materials of premium quality.

'More consumers look for top-quality exclusive products,' Ardouin says. 'We highlight these products that target luxury brands.'

Exotic varieties include fish skins, such as Pirarucu, and luxury natural fabrics such as cashmere. Eco-friendly and organic products are also highlighted, such as vegetable-tanned leather.

The fair releases its exclusive leather trends forecast at its Material Trends Space under the theme 'Fashion Lights Spring/Summer 2013'. Trends consultant Olivier Guillemin, chairman of the Comite Francais de la Couleur, has selected cutting-edge and innovative leather, fabrics and components from exhibitors to illustrate upcoming colour and material trends.

A series of conferences, including an update on trends of compliance of the European Commission's REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) standard by the CTC Groupe, will also take place.

Visiting the fair are companies from throughout the supply chain. Many are from Asia where the sourcing offices and production of international brands are based.

'Some manufacturers visit the fair to identify upcoming trends and international market needs,' Ardouin says. 'We have been upgrading the quality of exhibitors so that trend-setting products are showcased. Fashion leads the development of the industry and companies plan their production for the upcoming year based on trends. The fair also helps companies identify material pricing trends.'

Complementing MM&T is Fashion Access, which features more than 600 exhibitors displaying Fall/Winter 2012-13 collections of bags, footwear, small leather goods and fashion accessories, leather garments, travel ware and other lifestyle products.

The fair has adapted its format to the new global buying pattern. 'Many buyers source different products simultaneously,' she says. 'To set their shops apart from the competition, retailers have diversified their product mix and transformed into purveyors of brands of lifestyle concepts.'

The fair presents such innovative features as Fashion Avenue and Fashion Atmospheres. Drawing many buyers for exclusive boutiques, Fashion Avenue focuses on upscale branded, lifestyle concept-type products available in limited quantities.

The fair is in step with global trends as many of its exhibitors have evolved from original equipment manufacturer to original design manufacturer and original brand manufacturer. 'We see significant growth in the numbers of exhibitors from Japan, who specialise in creative and high-end items and exhibitors from Europe,' Ardouin says.

'We have advocated the 'total look' concept and guided the exhibitors to develop and tailor a total look or lifestyle concept for individual buyers.'

Fashion Atmospheres feature various product category-specific zones, including 'Step Up!' for footwear, 'Carry Up!' for bags and 'Top Up!' for other accessories.

This approach helps make buyers' sourcing more efficient. Exhibitors can spotlight their products in the areas that suit them.

'To help buyers formulate their sourcing strategies before the show, we offer all exhibitors online showrooms in the portal FashionNetAsia.com that invites the buyers to preview their latest collections,' she says.

Visiting retailers get a glimpse of new trends at the 'Fashion Time Fall/Winter 2012-13' display at the Fashion Trends Space, showcasing products from exhibitors.

The creative daily fashion presentation 'Dress Up!' featuring models wearing the latest products from exhibitors helps buyers visualise upcoming trends.

Encompassing the global apparel and footwear industries, PSF is an open discussion harnessing the synergy of the global fashion industry.

All keynote speakers share their expert experiences and insights on pressing issues facing the industry and attending specialists exchange their ideas and solutions.

Keynote speakers include Henry Tan of Luen Thai Holdings.

Workshops are held today, where participants will discuss issues such as effective supply chain management and the retail market in China. During the forum, tomorrow and Friday, speakers will discuss the power of social networking for retailing, industry sustainability and outlook for industries in economic crisis.