I was recently walking through the IFC mall in Hong Kong with Jackie Astier from the Untitled magazine who is undertaking a research project on the Asian market. She observed with justifiable excitement that she is heartened to see the growing presence of new fashion brands in the city that had hitherto boasted only of big, bigger, biggest luxury houses like Louis Vuitton, PRADA, Salvatore Ferragamo and CHANEL in every shopping mall. Boring she commented. I prefer SOHO!
2012 has seen more new brand launches than HongKong has seen in recent memory. Alexander Wang, Tory Burch, J.Crew, Maje, Sandro (brands all less than a decade old) made their foray into the Asian market by opening shops in HongKong which is considered as the fashion capital in Asia and is often the litmus test to measure the potential of a brand and its acceptance by the most vied for Chinese customer.
The fashion scene in HongKong is also changing and how! Hong Kong shoppers seem to be experimenting with and embracing new designers in their wardrobes and one can see this change increasingly in street fashion. The fashion savvy are moving away from their safe black, brown and beige wardrobes and experimenting with new colors, prints and textures. Hong Kong’s favorite fashion retailer Lane Crawford which can be credited for bringing new fashion brands to this market and playing a critical role in educating the customers on new brands recently launched LAB, a new concept aimed at presenting fashion in a more accessible format, attracting a younger demographic and promoting contemporary fashion (read 200 USD up) brands that are looking at Hong Kong as an important window to the Asian market.
One wonders if this will be a growing trend and if brands would change their merchandising strategy in response to the changing trends in fashion in Asia. Seasonal colors like “teal” are promoted in the brand catalogues but when my niece called a favorite brand’s stores in Hong Kong she found out to her disappointment that not only did they not have most of the styles she loved, the color choices were restricted to just black and blue. Now, that is a merchandiser getting stuck in a time warp. As the world shrinks online and trends become global within minutes of a celebrity spotted in a new style (going viral through social media) it is important that brands present a consistent collection and do not underestimate consumer preferences in the new emerging markets. In any case this is integral to brand building.
Fashion succeeds when it is dynamic and newness is an important formula to sustain the customer’s interest. More recently the success of brands like Tory Burch, J Crew could be attributed to the freshness of color palettes and the launch of 10-11 collections annually, keeping customers hooked and wanting more . Hope the merchandisers cotton on to this trend quickly and looking at their buys through the lens of a global fashion customer who is local but very quickly identifying with global trends. The other gap seems to be in the brands’ approach to channels like Lane Crawford vs their brand owned stores. Brands would do well to effectively use these channels to build and attract a new customer segment with their off the ramp pieces and fashion forward palette to win the customer’s dollar.
2013 may well see new stand alone stores and new fashion brands. SCMP just announced the opening of a new Pop up store by Phillip Lim in Hong Kong. He already has a stand alone in Kowloon. Despite this my niece will have to just wait for the teal sequins sweater from her favorite brand to be shipped through Net a Porter. And I pray for that reality of 2012 to change in the coming year. Amen!