4 May 2007
Extravagant Extras(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 05,2007)
|Silk velvet and silk satin burn-out scarves, a perennial fashion favourite, are a speciality of Shennel Trading Group from the US|
Among the myriad of fashion-related segments, fashion accessories appeared to be holding their own well, and exhibitors specialising in the distinctive styles of Asia seemed particularly happy. At the same time, those seeking ways to break into the Asian market were also alert to opportunities.
Regionally, Taiwan is well-placed among Asian contenders for market space - not least because of its textile expertise and various manufacturing capabilities. For example, 1987-established Taiwan firm Ponal Trading Corp enjoys good business in sundry goods, gift items and fashion accessories.
Ponal's range of fashion accessories includes imitation jewellery such as rings, earrings, brooches and necklaces, combined with a multitude of materials including fabrics, plastic and metal. The company also sources other items such as handicrafts or novelties for its regular customers.
Manager David Tu said long necklaces and dangling earrings were major trends. "The long necklace is hot, and the ethnic look is definitely very popular," Tu informed.
Typical products at Ponal are ethnic style necklaces with antique bronze pieces, using polyresin and glass beads; bracelets featuring circle-patterned fabrics and beads; bangles with wood beads and tassels; and floral brooches using wild seeds. "Strong colours and contrasts are popular, as are subtle shades of grey."
Ponal operates a manufacturing arm and a branch office in Dongguan on the Chinese mainland. Production takes place at a four-floor factory that employs 20 workers, and the minimum order is 240-300 pieces per style and colour for delivery 45-60 days after order confirmation.
Representing Europe in the fashion accessory sector was Chenard-Alexandre, the name of the 1962-established French company and also that of the manager-proprietor of this fashion accessories and costume jewellery seller.
"We have been making accessories for 40 years," said Chenard, "and my speciality is to make items for ready-to-wear outfits, matching the colours and styles and bringing out earrings, bracelets, necklaces and hairpins."
The company manufactures in France and on the Chinese mainland, while all designs originate in France. "I have come to Hong Kong for the past 5-6 years," she said. "This year, I am looking for North American and Australian customers, and to contact buyers who seldom come to Europe. But this season it has not been easy as Americans are not travelling so much."
On the other hand, 1994-established US firm Shennel Trading Group offers ladies' silk fashion accessories, blouses, jackets and long coats. While its headquarters are in Ontario, California, manufacturing takes place at a 2,000-square-foot, 100-worker factory in Shanghai on the mainland.
"The fabric we use is very special, very gorgeous, and people simply love it," said president Aris Ai. "The fabric is rare. Our source is on the mainland, and the silk comes from Suzhou and Hangzhou. In New York, people order online and one of our more popular selling lines is a silk, velvet burn-out scarf that we produce in a variety of styles."
The company also offers different types of scarves, long coats as dusters, short kimono jackets and dragon jackets that are also popular in the US. "Mostly, we sell into the US, but we want to expand into Europe and Australia and that's a principal reason to be at this show," Ai said.
"We also favour printed designs with beads, a line that has been around for five years yet still proves popular," Ai said. "The burn-out style and more complex designs incorporating tassels with beads and hand crocheting are also in demand."
To incorporate beading takes a lot of work. "The patterns might be flowers, or birds or dragons, and this is an art form," she said. "The fabric is natural silk and a lot of the work is still done by hand using skilled workers that can only be found on the mainland." A minimum order is 200 pieces per style for delivery in 60 days.
According to chief designer and CEO Rachna Bawa of New Delhi-based Anaya Collections, ethnic and regional designs have a definite place in the fashion accessories world.
"We offer upmarket cashmere and silk shawls, which are very beautifully embroidered. We have also prepared a line of tastefully embroidered silk tunics and we have silk stoles and a range of hand-made bags," she said.
All the manufacturing and handwork for these items is carried out entirely in-house in India. "We are looking at the high-end and at a niche market, so a few dollars variation in price is of no real concern to most buyers," said Bawa.
"We are aggressively marketing shawls this year," she added, "while our stoles are also selling well, with buyers generally expressing delight at our silk and cashmere lines."
Anaya's main markets are in Europe, France in particular. "We are doing really well in France," she said, "probably because it is a fashion-conscious country. We also feel there is a lot of untapped potential in the Asia-Pacific region, but we are new to this market and need to develop here."
The firm also sells in India under its own designer label, Anaya. Minimum order depends on the particular item while delivery depends on the quantity. "A particularly large order would take up to 60 days," Bawa said.
Another Taiwanese firm, San Sun Hat & Cap Co Ltd, started producing hats some 50 years ago. "We have had a hat factory in the family for generations, since my grandfather's days," said vice-president of sales Tunghua Tai. "He started production as a farmer, making straw hats, until about 30 years ago when he started using machinery."
Initially producing at a factory in Ching-Shui, Taiwan, and today with an additional production facility in Guangzhou on the mainland, the firm enjoyed patronage from such high-end fashion brands as Giorgio Armani. "We have since developed further, and in addition to our original lines also offer new, performance headwear items," Tai added.
An example of performance materials, he explained, is silver yarn. "This yarn can maintain atoxic, non-stimulating, and prolonged antibacterial and anti-odour functions," he said. "We also have caps releasing negative ions so a person next to a computer all day might feel stressed but wearing a negative ion cap one would feel next to a stream in a forest."
Tai said that a key element is in understanding how to utilise unusual materials. "For example, yarns such as bamboo charcoal are said to assist blood circulation," he claimed. "Bamboo charcoal is not, as might be supposed, based on traditional Chinese medicine, but was invented by the Japanese. So, while manufacturers of clothes use it to make garments that help the body, our hats help the body and the brain!"
A heady cultural mix of northeast Asia was present in the form of some unusual designs from 2002-established Japanese firm Wahoo Fashion. The name, Wahoo, translates as Japan Trend, and the firm's line of wagara (a fabric made from the same material used for kimonos) came on-stream four years ago. The material is used throughout the firm's product range, which includes wagara caps, brightly patterned buckles and fine rings.
The firm has a factory and office in Guangzhou on the mainland, and sales offices in Korea and Japan. "We are selling Asian style to the West, something that is a combination of elements from Japan, Korea and China," said the firm's Korean manager Dave Cho. "Our products use a lot of Japanese fabrics, but we also use materials from China and Korea."
Something different, he added, for the youth market, is an iPod case. "We are trying to sell something new, to set a trend in the West, and the themes chosen to achieve that are love and passion, not the usual cartoon characters associated with a lot of trendy Japanese goods."
While the main focus is on the West, Cho said he has found that Asians from Thailand and Singapore also appreciate the Japanese look. "They are attracted to Japanese designs in general, and cannot find this kind of fabric elsewhere. Actually, only a few people can handle wagara as it is a new material. We mix and match it to create new and attractive items."
Cho said that Europe is an interesting market, but that buyers from the US always want lower prices. "I do not welcome orders from large buyers as they want too low a price," he said. Minimum order quantity is 100 pieces in any one colour/style and 300 pieces per order in three-colour styles. Delivery takes 20-25 days.
As these comments from international exhibitors with fashion accessories on offer reveal, there was plenty to do and lots of anticipation seeking genuine buyers amid the crowds, traders, designers, technicians, agents and onlookers at a highly successful Hong Kong Fashion Week.
TEXT BY TONY HENDERSON
A-466 Defence Colony
New Delhi-110024, India
Tel: 91-1141552989 / 91-9810298700
21 rue Gounod
92210 Saint-Cloud, France
Shennel Trading Group
1880 S. Milliken Ave
Ontario, CA 91761, US