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Winning Mode

Fashion & Fashion Accessories

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With lasting designs, innovative techniques and adaptive approaches, resourceful Asian suppliers have the fashion market all sewn up

Consumers may be cutting their coats according to their cloth amid the economic gloom, but the fashion and accessories industry is rising to the challenge in style.

As many buyers are now embracing the "value for money" philosophy, the spotlight has fallen on Asian suppliers with their enduring and unusual designs that are certain to outlive seasonal trends.

"We focus on producing timeless pieces that have longer lifespans in the wardrobe, rather than designs that may be in one season and out the very next," says Iris Jing, Director of the Chinese mainland's Hangzhou Grace Fashion Garments Industrial & Trading Co Ltd.

This approach is working under the current retail downswing, as thriftier consumers in the firm's major markets of France, Germany, Italy, the UK, Poland and Greece are demanding pieces with a difference rather than mass-produced clothes that can fall quickly out of fashion's favour.

"People may be buying fewer pieces of clothing given their tighter budgets, but they are spending their money on better-quality items that will stay in their wardrobes for a longer time," Ms Jing observes. "Women who used to change their wardrobes every season are now demanding longer-lasting pieces that they hold dear."

Strong showing

To keep abreast of international fashion trends, Hangzhou Grace regularly attends fashion shows in trend capitals such as Paris, Milan, Tokyo and Seoul. "We then infuse what is hot with some traditional Chinese elements to create unique pieces that consumers will value and keep for a long time," Ms Jing explains.

"Most of our clothes are embellished with fine details or handmade embroidery, and the quality and uniqueness of the pieces make them collectors' items."

Being adaptive is another winning formula during a market downturn, as Hong Kong-based cashmere-related products manufacturer Luxfair Int'l Co Ltd well knows. This supplier is seeing stable demand for its products despite the worsening global economy.

Readily responsive

"One reason for the continued support from customers is our flexibility in adapting to market conditions and accommodating the needs of cost-conscious buyers," says Manager Ken Yeung.

"We have seen smaller orders in some cases, and one way that we have responded to customers' cost concerns was to come up with shawls of smaller width," he says.

"The size of our standard shawl is 160cm by 42cm, but we have recently made them narrower. The length remains at 160cm, and the new width is 21cm. This halves the cost, while the narrower shawls look just as good."

He adds that cashmere products are highly-prized commodities that always enjoy a certain level of demand.

Likewise, Ling Nam Neckwear Mfg Ltd of Hong Kong proves that imagination helps shore up sales in testing times - even for staple items such as the tie.

"We come out with 100 new designs every month," says Sales Executive Billy Chong. "Our production comprises approximately 70% executive ties, 20% trendy ties for the fashionable crowd and the remaining 10% are uniform ties."

Trendy ties are a growing part of the firm's business. "While executive ties have a standard width of 8.5-9.5cm, trendy ties are narrower with widths of about 5-7cm. They generally boast bolder patterns and are more colourful," Mr Chong notes.

Eco edges

Innovation also abounds in production procedures, and with the increasing awareness of environmental issues, natural-dyed garments could be the next big thing.

"This is a market that remains untapped and has high potential," remarks Sera Kim, Senior Researcher of Textile Information & Planning for Fashion Center Korea.

The organisation provides marketing, technical and financial support to small Korean garment manufacturers, and is involved in a project to promote natural dyes to the international fashion market. "The natural dye used by Korean manufacturers is totally chemical-free and environmentally friendly," Ms Kim claims.

"Natural-dyed clothes are an important part of Korea's textile industry, although natural dyeing is still not a familiar concept to international fashion buyers as it is not yet mass-marketed. We are really hoping to introduce this concept to global buyers," she adds.

Such creativity and resourcefulness ensures Asian suppliers of fashion and accessories remain in winning mode at all times.