Hub founders help struggling designers find their feet

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 March, 2014, 9:49am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 March, 2014, 9:49am

The second edition of the Hub fashion trade show at AsiaWorld-Expo last week launched a new platform for young, progressive labels from around the world.

The Greenhouse featured 27 up-and-coming brands, giving the designers an opportunity to take their place alongside more established labels.

As a young designer, committing to an entire booth [at the hub] is a little daunting
Prerna chainani-monsen, founder maison monsen 

Richard Hobbs, one of the Hub co-founders, says the idea to create a dedicated space for emerging designers followed the inaugural show last August. Hobbs and Peter Caplowe, the Hub's other co-founder, were approached by both local designers who were struggling to find the right platform in the local market and by smaller international designers wanting to break into the market but without the budget to take an entire booth by themselves.

Sectioned off from the main floor of the show, the Greenhouse had the look and feel of a quality department store or even a Paris or New York showroom. For young designers it was an affordable way to get involved.

Prerna Chainani-Monsen was raised in Hong Kong and divides her time between Hong Kong and New York, where she founded her new fashion label Maison Monsen this year. She showed her first collection of beautifully tailored garments that were made in New York with fabric sourced from India.

"As a young designer, committing to an entire booth is a little daunting. This way you get to sit among your peers in a department store type set-up," says Chainani-Monsen.

The Greenhouse was home to a number of the rising stars of Asia's fashion industry during the three-day show.

Shenzhen-based VMajor's Victor Zhu says he was excited to have found a suitable environment to showcase his collection. "Asian designers are not always taken seriously enough at fashion events in the West, and local events aren't selective enough about which brands they show and lack the credibility to attract international buyers," says Zhu.

There was a lot of buzz around Beijing-based Chi Zhang who founded his label in 2009 and has been getting a lot of attention on the mainland and been well reviewed in Vogue China and GQ China.

Known for experimenting with the avant-garde, his current collection features gas masks.

"The air pollution is very bad in Beijing," says Zhang, "that's what inspired this collection. I'm happy to get to show it here. I'm already known in China. Now I want people outside China to know my work."

Hobbs says the Greenhouse format will be a regular fixture at the bi-annual show and he and Caplowe will strive to maintain a good mix of international and regional designers and labels.

Seminars and workshops on topics from multi-label retail in China to how to improve store results were held throughout the event with the aim of educating and stirring debate on key industry issues.

"For us it's a big loss leader, but we think it is what's needed. What we eventually want to create is a proper Hong Kong fashion week, not one that is just about sourcing and production but one that is about bringing the activity and fashion and putting it in front of the people that matter," says Hobbs.

Organisers estimated attendance at the fair at about 3,000 mostly Asian buyers and retailers, which was about the same number as last year.

Despite the numbers there was little foot traffic at the fair, which pleased Greenhouse exhibitor Elisabeth Koch, a Beijing-based milliner.

"We've exhibited at Chic-Young Blood in China and I've been to places where they let in everyone and their grandparents off the street, and they come in and grab stuff and it's not serious. This is very different. I like it and I've had quite a few people who have online shops and boutiques come and talk to me already," says Koch.

The next Hub show is Aug 28-30