Hong Kong fashion designers' hopes high after New York exposure
They're names you may not be familiar with - yet: Methodology, Placed by Gideon, Injury and Daydream Nation - four Hong Kong fashion labels whose spring/summer collections were shown in New York this month
Vivienne Tam wasn't the only Hong Kong designer represented on the catwalks of New York this month. Ten other local designers and brands followed in her footsteps by participating in Fashion Guerilla 2015, a Hong Kong designer showcase, organised by non-profit organisation Fashion Farm Foundation during New York Fashion Week.
Since its inception in 2012, the foundation has made it its mission to nurture and promote Hong Kong's emerging fashion talent both at home and abroad with events including the Fashion Guerilla series, which was launched in Paris in 2013.
The New York instalment, however, was decidedly different: it included a full-scale catwalk show featuring the designs of four of Hong Kong's rising fashion stars.
"We wanted to have more interaction with fashion media and press, so we hosted a runway show because it's the best way to capture their attention," says Edith Law, chairwoman of the foundation.
"We chose New York this time because of the similarities between Hong Kong and New York. It's easier for Hong Kong-based designers to enter the market thanks to similar cultures, characters and background."
Held in the trendy Meatpacking district, the show was attended by a 300-plus crowd of insiders, bloggers and buyers, who came to see the designs of well-known brands such as Injury by Eugene Leung and fashion theatre label Daydream Nation. Younger labels included Placed by Gideon, a collection of poetic menswear known for its layered looks, and Methodology, a line of versatile urban separates that can be transformed into different styles.
While many of the designers had previously shown at various trade shows and fashion weeks around the world, the New York outing was a unique opportunity for them.
"I have shown at Australian fashion week but New York, in particular, was an interesting market to explore because the city shares our brand's identity, which is urban, minimal and sporty," says Leung.
"A lot has changed since we launched 10 years ago - the perception of Chinese designers is more positive thanks to people like Phillip Lim and Alexander Wang. It's no longer about where your label is from. What matters is the design and quality of work," he adds.
The prospect of international exposure and funding was a key draw for Daydream Nation, which was founded in 2006.
"For so many years we hosted shows that were more like theatre performances and we never had the budget to do something properly until now," explains co-founder Kay Wong.
In addition to the catwalk show, the foundation also hosted a three-day showroom, attended by press, buyers and industry insiders, including executives from conglomerate Kering and Japanese label Sacai. Here they discovered many other brands, ranging from menswear to accessories. Highlights included women's ready-to-wear label Berayah, a line of day-to-night workwear separates designed by Parsons graduate Enoch Ho, edgy urban essentials by Twisted Sis and colourful street wear by Yeung Chin. Menswear label The World Is Your Oyster, which is known for its youthful tailoring, was another favourite and was recently picked up by Lane Crawford. Accessories included Matter Matters, a line of colourful and graphic bags already sold in stores such as Colette in Paris, and sculptural contemporary jewellery by Playback Concept.
"It is important to be here as New York is the largest regional economy and is also a hub for major fashion publications such as Women's Wear Daily, Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, and home to some of the largest advertising companies in the world," says Gideon Tam of Placed by Gideon.
"Rarely can the development of a new market be achieved by visiting the place one or two times. Rather, we see this trip as a tester for our products in the American market. We got feedback from visitors and understand more about our strengths, weaknesses and market orientation of our designs," adds Chan from Playback Concept.
While sales, feedback and networking were top priorities for the designers, the foundation hopes that the event will help elevate Hong Kong's position on the international style map.
"There are more American-Chinese brand names rising, such as Derek Lam, Jason Wu and, more recently, Dao-yi Chow from Public School. Chinese designers have their own speciality and unique perspective, so it's time to show the unexpected creativity of home-grown Hong Kong-Chinese designers to the world," says Law.