Searching for the next game-changer in Hong Kong’s thriving fashion start-up scene
The second edition of Startup Weekend Hong Kong Fashion, taking place from December 8 to 10, aims to help more talented designers be fashion entrepreneurs
The rise of digital start-ups in recent years has revolutionised the fashion industry, allowing savvy designers to market their clothes to a wider audience, and moving it past the era where fashion trends were dictated by seasonal catwalk shows from couture houses.
Online shopping and e-commerce platforms such as eBay, Depop, Tictail and Etsy have been a boon for fashion lovers and a cash cow for clothes makers.
But what will the next game-changer for the industry be? Hayley Lyla, a fashion designer and Hong Kong native, wants to find out.
She is organising this year’s Startup Weekend Hong Kong Fashion 2.0, a three-day event fashioned after Donald Trump’s reality TV show “Apprentice”, where teams create an innovative fashion-related pitch to present to a panel of expert judges.
“We want to encourage people to make their ideas become reality,” she says. “So they can start working now on things they might have thought weren’t possible before, and make an impact in the future.”
Taking place between 8 and 10 December in Wong Chuk Hang, the event has a wide range of participants: local designers, shop owners, entrepreneurs, fashion and design graduates who represent the by now inextricable connection between technology and fashion.
Lyla is a good example of the talent she hopes to attract to the event: she studied fashion design at university, and worked at a day job as a designer for fashion companies, while creating her own collections, which she sold via an e-commerce store.
“During my journey as an entrepreneur, I found it really hard and had to put a lot of time and effort into developing the whole collection.
“By chance I got to know Startup Weekend in Hong Kong and what they offer, a platform for people to connect and for me to network,” Lyla says, referring to the global event that aims to connect collaborators so they can build new enterprises.
She adds: “That’s how entrepreneurs develop their ideas, so I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to give back to the community.”
Since organising the first Startup Weekend Hong Kong Fashion event in 2016, Lyla has encountered a surprisingly large number of people who are interested in fashion and e-commerce.
She expects 40 to 60 attendees for this year’s event alone, all of whom will receive dedicated coaching and advice from seasoned professionals working in the technology, marketing and fashion worlds.
Fashion start-ups are becoming increasingly common in Hong Kong as young people search for other, more innovative avenues to enter the creative industries.
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“Affordable small-scale manufacturing options and low overhead e-commerce solutions are reducing the need for so much upfront capital to enter fashion entrepreneurship,” Lyla says.
By lowering the financial barriers to entry, the playing field has opened considerably to a more diverse range of designers, who will in turn be able to access bigger audiences using the technology available at their hands.
“Fashion technology has also rapidly changed how consumers are behave, [making] it easy for consumers to go from inspiration to purchase,” she says. “Customers … might like an item but can’t afford it. There will be tools that can help them find something similar and economical.”
French expatriate Morgane Parizot, who works as a textile engineer in the sportswear industry, believes that the event will give her inspiration for a side project she is working on.
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“I am hoping to gain insights into what’s going on in the start-up scene, meet people, share ideas and hopefully build up on them after this weekend,” she adds.
But, as Lyla acknowledges, fashion is a very competitive industry in Hong Kong and it matters not just what designers produce but how they can make their business environmentally sustainable.
“Maybe what I’m doing is a really small step, but you have to start educating people and telling them the story behind the fashion which is just as important,” she says.