What Hong Kong fashion can do to raise its global profile – some hopeful signs

Designers applaud government-backed initiatives and events, but say more collaboration is key to the next generation producing another quintessential local brand such as Shanghai Tang, Vivienne Tam or G.O.D.

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 September, 2017, 5:45pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 September, 2017, 7:16pm

A dance performance by Bouboo The Crow at the recent Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) Centrestage catwalk event threw a spotlight on the collaborative creativity the city’s fashion scene needs if it wants global recognition.

Headlining the event were noted Korean brand Juun J. and Hong Kong/Shenzhen-based Ffixxed Studios, and the show featured local labels such as Loom Loop and Kenax Leung. Other highlights included the annual Young Fashion Designers’ Contest and the Fashion Farm Foundation’s FFFriday series of local designer showcases in galleries around Central.

Such clustering of events, and teaming up to make greater collective noise about Hong Kong fashion, is what the scene needs to grow and command sustained business.

The question of what defines Hong Kong fashion has been pondered for years. There are designers such as Polly Ho, creative director of Loom Loop, who have their own interpretation – for the Centrestage collection Ho collaborated with local drinks brand Vitasoy (cute, kitsch and clever, reminiscent of the pop-inspirations of Anya Hindmarch and Jeremy Scott).

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But for Kain Picken, co-founder (along with Fiona Lau) of Ffixxed Studios, a fixation with pushing “Hong Kong identity” means that “some of the young designers have a pressure to show this, sometimes quite unnaturally ... Hong Kong’s insularity might hold itself back ... in a lot of creative spheres.”

Ho, who invited VIP clients, business contacts and celebrities to last week’s show, says such events offer local designers valuable exposure but“the next thing is to see how local media publicises the show ... To be honest, from our experience, local magazines don’t really care that much about local fashion.”

Government-run catwalk shows staged in conjunction with a huge manufacturing fashion trade show at the Convention Centre have their own limitations, says Picken. A “trade show” is hardly alluring and it’s little wonder these catwalk shows have struggled – but there is hope if the organisers continue to push boundaries and take risks.

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Various government-funded initiatives are helping. For example, Loom Loop and Ffixxed are supported by the newly inaugurated Fashion Incubation Programme (FIP) run by the Hong Kong Design Centre (disclosure: I’m a mentor and judge on the programme). Fashion Farm Foundation, likewise, supports local brands such as Injury, Modement, and Ffixxed, at a group show for Paris Fashion Week as well as local publicity.

“I know they are trying to make it a bit more of a high-level international event with big global designer showing alongside local brands,” says Picken of the government’s efforts. “There’s significant funding behind it, the team that handled our show were really good and the HKTDC brought in some very good international buyers, which was really useful to be introduced to.

“We’ve been a bit conscious about establishing our presence in Hong Kong; being part of the FIP programme has helped.”

As brands such as G.O.D., Shanghai Tang and Vivienne Tam show, there is a place and a taste for Hong Kong designers. Younger brands have struggled for similar levels of recognition and the question is, who from the next generation can show the way for home-bred style?