THERE is a tradition in the high fashion world which never fails to unnerve novice reporters. They may have heard of it, but seeing it at the seasonal ready-to-wear collections in Paris, Milan or New York is something else: the society dames paying homage to a favourite by wearing that designer's clothes to his (and occasionally her) show. Often it's a top-seller, with the result that the best seats seem to be reserved for a club of clones. As you survey the elite groupies in their near-identical uniforms, you wonder: are their heroes flattered to death or do they secretly despise these women? There is another form of worship which shouldn't be confused with the mass displays and this one is really awesome: a devotion so extreme that it precludes all but the idol's clothes. Does Hongkong have its share of the obsessed? Sure. ''Among our clients, there are about 10 who wear only Ungaro and nothing else,'' Teresa Tsang, director and chief buyer of the Swank Shop revealed the other day at an invitation-only event at the Conrad Hotel. It was expressly for devotees: a trunk show featuring Emanuel Ungaro's Autumn-Winter 93/94 ready-to-wear collection, unveiled in Paris on March 18. The Swank Shop, which has been true to Ungaro for more than two decades (and vice-versa) now holds these shows twice a year and they are cosy affairs. From about 10am to 5pm, the chosen can drift in and partake of morning or afternoon tea as they case the goods - hung on racks and worn by models - and place their orders. First pick pays off, Ms Tsang assures. ''If you wait till the collection goes into the shops, you might miss out on a particular outfit. This way, you're sure of getting what you want. All the key Swank Shop people were at the Conrad. Keeping an even keener eye on the proceedings was Rene Ungaro, younger brother of Emanuel and sometimes mistaken for him, so close is the resemblance. ''I love the sophistication of Hongkong,'' said the sibling who has served for 23 years as creative director for the famous house on Avenue Montaigne, off the Champs Elysees. ''When you walk in the streets, everyone looks so smart - better than in Paris or New York.'' Ms Tsang, whose late mother and stepfather, Rosalind and David Weire, founded the Swank Shop, can talk with even greater authority about the appeal of Emanuel Ungaro, the French-born Italian tailor's son who served under Balenciaga before launching his own label at the age of 32. ''He let me work in his studio for two months - a very unusual gesture for Ungaro - so I could learn about his operation first-hand,'' said Ms Tsang who was trained at the London College of Fashion and St Martin's School of Design. ''Watching him was fascinating. There was always a house model standing by - he creates everything on his models - and everybody including me had to wear white overalls. ''Ungaro is an extraordinary designer. You can't compare him with anyone else in the business and he's never suffered a bad season. He involves himself in every aspect of design - even watching the way girls move. This is a man who really loves women.'' There is not a gossip columnist in Europe who would disagree. And there were no dissenters among the scribes in Paris who saw Ungaro's latest offerings, presented in the intimacy of his own salon, not the tents at the Louvre. ''Full of good-looking folklore and geared to commercial success,'' reported Suzy Patterson of Associated Press. ''Sensational . . . a beautiful collection that stands on its own,'' said The New York Times ' Bernadine Morris. A key reason for this enthusiasm is that in a bold departure, ''Prints Charming'' has foregone his usual tightly draped dresses fit only for the ladies who pretend to lunch. Instead his focus for next winter is on ethnic-flavoured separates for day and luxurious combinations, often with metallic brocade or jewelled embroidery, for night. He adds the obligatory black leather outfits and black velvet suits, but it's the colourful patterned clothes - no two pieces exactly matching - that triumph. Does this mean that least 10 Hongkong women will have to add imagination to adoration next season? There were no signs of panic at the Conrad, but then blind faith is also part of the master's strategy. Noted Morris: ''Ungaro has said he wants a woman to reach into her wardrobe with her eyes closed and come up with clothes that work perfectly.''