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Hong Kong isn't a modest city and with its second recession since the Communists came into town, a fashion week was just the thing to perk up the local mood

by Jamil Anderlini


HAT better way to get your mind off your financial troubles than to put on a fashion show? The economy in Hong Kong is in serious recession but that did not stop the city from holding its fifth annual fashion week in much the same style it has become accustomed to.
   Outside of Japan the event is the pre-eminent fashion meeting in Asia, with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council taking care of logistics and participants flying in from over 20 different countries. In attendance were the usual pop starlets and media hordes as well as a certain type of ostentation peculiar to this former British colony. Despite obvious signs of recession it was plain from last week’s event that the Asian love affair with brands, and especially brands associated with wealth and prestige, is alive and well.
   For a century-and-a-half, wealth and prestige came from Europe to this part of Asia and the need to copy styles from labels on the continent still seems to predominate here. As the unusually tall women who walked as if they were wearing flippers paraded down the catwalk at this year’s Hong Kong Fashion Week, there was a sense that what you were seeing in the designs was a careful interpretation of what was going on in Paris, London and Milano.
   The bright happy colours from the local designers seemed to reflect the need for cheerfulness in the gloomy commercial climate while their designs tended towards the more conservative, proving that these clothes were aimed at the buyers and not meant to make any statements. Denim enjoyed a revival amongst many of the participating designers after expectations in the fashion world that it may be on the decline. On the other hand, vintage clothing did not feature despite its popularity in other fashion centres around the world. I guess that is not really surprising when you consider this part of the world’s reliance on textile manufacturing.
   A focus of this year’s event was the launch of several new labels, including some from the large contingent of Korean designers who were numerous enough to warrant their own runway show. Korean fashion is often flamboyant, tending towards ridiculous, but this year the styles could be described as rather subdued.
   The highlight of the week was probably the collection from the winner of the Hong Kong new fashion award Hidy Ng Kwan Kay. Her Bohemian collection defied the adage that the skirts get shorter when the economy gets worse, with long, flowing skirts and singlets topped off with scarves. Not only were her garments voted the most creative, her choice of theme titles showed up such irrelevancies as ‘Cool cool blue,’ ‘Secret garden’ and ‘Passage to wonderland’.
   Apart from the six or so catwalk shows, the week also involved a number of seminars and a massive trade fair that included stalls displaying everything from buttons and costume jewellery to haute couture. Of course, the two extremes were separated at either ends of the massive new Hong Kong event centre by the fashion spectrum in between.
   Somewhere in the middle could be witnessed the surprising sight of a couple of Aussie bloke models in their outback gear parading up and down a makeshift aisle with partners in full bridal regalia. A total of 10 Australian designers had stalls in the event and a seminar entitled ‘Selling your label in Australia’ talked about the inter-reliance of the Asian and antipodean markets. The emphasis placed on overseas buyers was yet another reminder of just how reliant business and fashion are on each other, while the most noticeable shortfall of the well-organized and professional fashion week was the absence of any sort of after-fashion show soirée. After each event all the participants and guests went on their way without so much as a glass of sparkling grape juice. This very unfashionable development is perhaps another sign of just how bad things have gotten financially in the notoriously decadent city. • Jamil Anderlini

Jamil Anderlini is a guest contributor to Lucire.

Visit Hong Kong Trade Development Council


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