For the past 23 years, Interstoff Asia has been the must-see fair for anyone who is anyone in the international clothing industry. Established and organised by Messe Frankfurt (HK), the show has evolved from a textile-sourcing platform to a diverse event that reveals apparel and fabric trends, the latest fashion designs and business strategies to the industry's elite. But Interstoff Asia Essential Autumn features a new highlight: an international convention that focuses on the realities of business for an industry that has tightened its belt after the recent global financial crisis, yet is refitting for new trading opportunities on the mainland and the booming economies of Asia. Thanks to the new partnership between Messe Frankfurt and the Amsterdam-based International Apparel Federation (IAF) - a politically neutral global body of key executives, national clothing associations and companies - the 26th IAF International Apparel Convention (October 5 to 7) will be held in tandem with Interstoff Asia Essential Autumn (October 6 to 8). The convention is being held in Hong Kong for the first time in 13 years. Nearly 300 delegates across the apparel supply chain will gather at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre to explore the latest developments in their sector. Held in different cities every year, the convention is a tremendous networking and intelligence-gathering opportunity for the recession-hit trade, says IAF secretary general Han Bekke. 'It's a great opportunity for companies that have experienced a decrease in sales in this competitive economic climate and need help identifying winning strategies, and ideas for production, sourcing and distribution of fashion.' Holding the convention alongside Interstoff Asia Essential trade fair makes strategic sense, says Messe Frankfurt Asia Holdings managing director Stephan Buurma. 'This collaboration offers the optimal setting for the next World Apparel Convention,' he says. 'The location alone is of great importance for the international textile industry. Hong Kong, the most effective gateway to the Asia-Pacific, is the perfect destination for the industry. Hong Kong offers delegates a glimpse of a charming 21st century city, full of history but always with an eye on the future - a unique mixture of Eastern and Western culture.' This year's convention has drawn some of the biggest names in the apparel industry. Attending its opening session are government officials, trade associations and industry leaders, including Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan; Wang Shenyang, chairman of China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Textiles (CCCIET); Li & Fung (Trading) executive director Leung Wai-ping; and Esquel Group CEO John Cheh. Willy Lin, chairman of the Textile Council of Hong Kong, says his body is 'proud to take part in this meaningful event in Hong Kong' - kudos indeed from an organisation comprising 11 prominent textile and clothing associations representing the bulk of the city's spinning, weaving, knitting, dyeing, finishing and manufacturing industries. Also, for the first time, the CCCIET will represent the nation's textile and apparel industry to sign up as a member of the IAF on October 5. This commemorative event truly reflects the position of Hong Kong and Interstoff Asia Essential as a key business platform for the international apparel and textile industry, organisers say. Hong Kong can take pride in hosting such a prestigeous event, for the city plays an important role in connecting the mainland to the rest of the fashion world, says G2000 chairman Michael Tien. 'For those who desire to tap into the 1.3 billion-strong Chinese consumer market, Hong Kong is the place where professional talent with China know-how can be recruited, while building teams in design, sourcing, product development, technical support, marketing and retail to attract this massive market,' he says. 'More importantly, Chinese consumers' tastes have increasingly been influenced by Hong Kong counterparts and brands, making this city an effective testing market for newcomers wishing to enter China.' Tien is one of about 30 international industry experts who have been invited to host discussions focusing on this year's convention theme: 'How retailer brands, internet and green manufacturing are transforming fashion business.' He will deliver the keynote speech, 'Is fast fashion killing fashion?', and discuss the theme with a panel including Textiles Intelligence managing director Robin Anson, Yesim CEO Senol Sankaya and Arvind Singhal, CEO of Technopak. Meanwhile, [TC]2 president Michael Fralix, MFG founder Mitch Free and TradeCard CEO Kurt Cavano will discuss 'Fashion and the digital supply chain', while Wrap CEO Steve Jesseph, VF Asia managing director Thomas Nelson and other industry leaders will talk about 'Fashion and green manufacturing'. Nelson hopes the convention will encourage professionals to help eliminate inefficiencies in their operations. 'Hong Kong is a central hub whereby companies have representatives, so this convention gives us the opportunity to hopefully solve problems, share ideas and drive more networking,' he says. IAF president Vassilis Masselos and Bovacon CEO Bogo Vatovec will discuss 'Fashion in the digital age'. Other prominent speakers include Luen Thai CEO Henry Tan, Carmel Giblin of Sedex, German Fashion director-general Thomas Rasch and Fenix Group president Anthony Keung.