BARNEY Cheng has four categories for the people who ordain fashion. ''There are the couture designers like Valentino, the avant garde like Miyake, the intellectuals like Comme des Garcons and the glamorous like Versace. Me? I'm glam.'' He certainly is. When it came to opulence in the 1993 Young Designers' Show, none could rival Cheng whose Diva Bride collection won the non-knitwear prize. Inspired by Chinese opera and the traditional Chinese wedding robe, his ornate creations in antique gold and sand wowed the judges and gave hope of an important new talent. The Trade Development Council (TDC) was quick to exploit it. In March, when Hong Kong was the focus of the world's biggest trade fair, Igedo Dusseldorf, the TDC invited Cheng to participate in the gala and pavilion shows. And last Friday he was given hisown showcase: a TDC-sponsored afternoon tea show at the Marriott Hotel. Those not familiar with the young designer soon gleaned from a glossy brochure that he has recently set up a company, ambitiously launching not one, but three labels and can boast impressive credentials - a fine arts degree from Canada's University of Waterloo, plus training at Britain's Royal College of Art and the Parsons' School of Design, Paris. He has also been a freelance illustrator, worked as a buyer and designer for a sizeable fashion firm and is starting to make a name for himself with his bridal wear. But a full-scale collection is asking a lot of a 27-year-old just starting out on his own, and the 50-odd outfits created by Cheng for his first major show often reflected the strain. His best section, inspired by the late Duchess of Windsor, also reflected a fixation shared by many a local veteran. ''My favourites,'' said Cheng of his Wallis Work Wear, which included a range of jackets in black and white herringbone tweed. It was easy to share his enthusiasm. The tailoring was deft, details such as graduated red buttons struck an original note and the total effect was charmingly offbeat. Add classic skirts and pants and you would have had real winners. Instead, Cheng went for co-ordinates like mini fringed bloomers and a long wrap skirt cut coccyx-high at the back - hardly what the fastidious Mrs Simpson would have worn. ''Not local women either; they are much too conservative,'' observed a spectator. ''It's usually like this at Hong Kong fashion shows. The designers like to be different and shocking.'' A leading British fashion choreographer recently in town for a major promotion put it a different way. ''Typically over the top,'' said the pro, as yet another batch of complicated layers in violent hues hit the stage. Cheng is hard to fault when it comes to colour and fabric; a true sensualist, with a preference for the subtle as he showed with his range of fine wools and velvets. But that over-the-top syndrome was all too apparent in much of his party wear - a surfeit of gratuitous flesh and often blatantly theatrical. Sure, angels' wings and feathered helmets may be madly glam, but the truth is most women are interested in only two categories: wearable and flattering. What sort of clientele is Barney Cheng aiming for? If the Wallis Work Wear and a few other stand-outs like his fetching update on the white shirt are indicators, there's hope yet for a new star. The TDC should also be examining its role. Encouraging young talent is all very well, but launching it prematurely doesn't serve anyone's interests.