Strong demand has prompted Fashion Access organisers to increase the range at this year's fair. Although the main focus will still be on bags and footwear, product sectors will be divided into five sections. Carry Up! (bags), Step Up! (footwear), Gear Up! (small leather goods and business items), Style Up! (garments) and Move Up! (travelware) use the word 'up' as a sign of encouragement to every country's fashion industry, according to Perrine Ardouin, senior event manager at fair organiser APLF. As Europe and the United States were more affected than Asia by the financial downturn last year, organisers want people to look up and be optimistic. Fashion Access is being held from today until Wednesday at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, with 656 exhibitors from 22 countries and regions. There are 14 group pavilions and 83 first-time exhibitors from Bangladesh, the mainland, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. The APLF-organised Materials Manufacturing and Technology fair is being held simultaneously at the same venue. The exhibition centre is also hosting the Prime Source Forum, which gathers speakers and participants representing international apparel companies to discuss the industry's problems and issues. The concurrent hosting of the two fairs and the forum is special, according to Ardouin. 'With these three events, we have covered the whole supply chain. I don't think there is any other event like ours,' she says. Apart from the new product divisions, Fashion Access is also welcoming a new exhibitor area called Total Look. Total Look features companies showcasing a complete collection of stylish ready-to-wear clothes, bags, shoes and fashion accessories in line with Fashion Access's comprehensive 'head-to-toe' approach. Even though most exhibitors are from overseas, organisers believe in local fashion and are offering local designers the chance to promote their designs to overseas buyers. 'Everyone believes that fashion is conceived in Europe and manufactured in China, and we want to make them see that this cycle can be the other way round,' Ardouin says. Continuing from last year, the 'Hong Kong's Got Talent' initiative is being repeated by Fashion Access. Last year, organisers showcased Polytechnic University's graduate award-winners' projects. This year, organisers are collaborating with Hong Kong's Fashion World Talent Awards, whose winning and semi-finalist designs will be displayed. With the support of organisers, such as UBM in promoting local fashion, Hongkongers are starting to be aware of and accept local designs. 'For the past few years, we have noticed a change of trends in that more locals are accepting local fashion designs. The local 'Runway' television programme, which will start to air soon, is an example of the acceptance,' says Christina Shea, brand manager of exhibitor Enigma. However, local fashion company owners still say that setting up your own brand is difficult in Hong Kong. 'A lot of money is needed to set up your own brand and the demand is still not enough, so it is hard to build up your own fashion label in Hong Kong,' says Joe Lau, creative director of Ideograph, another exhibitor. Shea and Lau agree that following the main trends is not the way to go if a label wants to stand out. 'To follow the main trends means the only competitive edge you'll be able to provide to consumers is the price, so we chose to create our own designs,' Lau says. Shea says her company wants to build its own brand image to differentiate itself from other fashion companies.