WORLD BOUTIQUE, Hong Kong, which runs concurrently with Hong Kong Fashion Week for Fall/Winter, marks its fifth edition at next week's trade fair. The event was set up in 2003 as a platform for designers to promote and showcase their collections to a worldwide audience of boutique buyers, department stores, fashion agents and distributors. It acted as a matchmaker between Hong Kong's fashion industry and potential buyers of branded apparel, designer labels and lifestyle products, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) said, adding that it was an essential event for those who wanted to establish themselves in Asia and to make their first move into China. One of the most anticipated events each year is the Hong Kong Young Fashion Designers' Contest, which takes place on the last day of the fair. The contest has a 30-year history but was reformed last year to make it a glitzier affair, with more prizes, in an effort to attract more entrants. As well as the Overall Winner Prize, there will be one winner from each category and four sponsored prizes. The contest is categorised into four sections: Casual & Jeans-wear, Contemporary Day-wear, Avant-garde Collections and Party-wear. Sixteen finalists have been short-listed from more than 150 entrants, and guest models from the entertainment industry, including Yumiko Cheng, Deep Ng and Patina Lin, have been booked to sashay down the catwalk in their creations. Judges are selected from the design, fashion, editorial and export/manufacturing sectors of the clothing industry and this year include David Tang, founder of Shanghai Tang, designer Barney Cheng and photographer Wing Shya. The competition serves the double purpose of cultivating and promoting a new generation of young designers whose ideas it is hoped will help boost Hong Kong's image as a centre for fashion design. In addition to the contest, there will be house shows from designers and international fashion designers' shows featuring the collections of local successes such as Cecilia Yau and William Tang. Other events include brand collections shows, salon shows and mini-parades which will be staged in the grounds of the fair and will feature the newest collections by exhibitors. More than 250 exhibitors, which collectively represent over 400 fashion labels worldwide, are expected at the fair. Companies from Austria, Mauritius, Singapore, Switzerland and the Ukraine will be first-time participants, taking the number of participating countries and regions to 19. IKA, Moiselle and ARTINI represent a fraction of the 250-plus homegrown brands participating at World Boutique. Major exhibition categories at the event will be fashion designers' collection and branded fashion products, fashion accessories (watches, sunglasses, fashion jewellery, belts, handbags and shoes), home fashion and lifestyle products and a small gifts category. International brands sending buyers will include Wal-Mart China, Kmart Australia and Pacific Brands, an Australian brand of considerable size with more than 7,500 employees worldwide.