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December 10, 2010

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Hong Kong style hits Shanghai

MORE Hong Kong fashion companies have realized the exciting opportunities of the mainland market and shifted their business focus to big cities such as Shanghai.

"The Hong Kong market is limited," said Christina Zhang, marketing director of DBHK, a newly-opened multi-brand boutique in Xintiandi Style, one of the latest shopping destinations in the heart of the city. DBHK, or designed by Hong Kong, carries more than 30 Hong Kong fashion labels, most of which are in Shanghai for the first time.

"A lot of Hong Kong brands want to make a move to the mainland," she said. "But since they don't have any experience here, they'd rather start business from a multi-branded store like us."

Apart from DBHK, people can also find all kinds of Hong Kong fashion products, from individual designer pieces to casual sportswear and shoes, in Xintiandi Style. They are sold either in multi-branded boutiques such as DBHK and Seven Days, or free-standing stores. Last week, Any Walk, a new Hong Kong brand specializing in canvas sneakers, opened its first Shanghai store in Xintiandi Style.

According to Zhang, DBHK targets local customers aged between 25 and 45. Since its launch at the end of October, the business has "far exceeded our expectations," she said. "The designers we chose represent now and the future of the Hong Kong fashion industry," she added.

"Hong Kong style is defined by its energy, variety, blend of East and West and openness to change," said Hong Kong-based jewelry designer, art and cultural advisor Kai-Yin Lo, who worked as the chief curator of "Hong Kong: Creative Ecologies - Business, Living, Creativity," a six-month Hong Kong design exhibition during World Expo Shanghai.

She was also the editorial director of the book "Hong Kong: Creative Ecologies - The Shaping of a Design Culture" in which she featured 43 established Hong Kong designers and 50 budding designers to talk about their design philosophy and growth stories.

"Hong Kong designers used to concentrate more on expansion to the US, Europe or Japan but now they have come to realize the huge potential of the mainland market," she said. "Compared with their mainland Chinese counterparts, Hong Kong designers have better understanding of how the business works. After all, good design must be well marketed to become brands."

Hong Kong entrepreneur Lauren Tien saw the opportunity with women executives who look for quality, classic pieces that stand the test of time. With the rapid growth of the Chinese economy, women executives are getting more sophisticated and discriminating in their fashion choice. There is a gap in the market.

Thus, she launched Anagram, a fashion label featuring capsule wardrobe pieces at more affordable prices compared with imported luxury brands.

"Anagram started with a belief," Tien said. "It is a belief in the creative power of China's homegrown talent. Unlike better-known brands hailing from this part of the world, we don't rely on whimsical designs, neon colors or Mandarin-style clothing to stand out. Quality is the key."

Creative director Miranda Tsui, who used to work for Max Mara Group in Italy, said that the brand adopts Italian cuts for tailoring pieces and its own interpretation of traditional Asian dress philosophy for soft pieces.

"We are interested in the subjects of sustainable design and cultural identity," she explained. "We wish to create timeless classics with a twist - clothes that will be kept by the wearer for a long time."

Anagram is now available in the city's Jiuguang City Plaza and Printemps Mall on Huaihai Road. According to Tien, the brand is now working with VIP lists from such high-end department stores to encourage women to try the collection.


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