At THE HUB Hong Kong, the inevitable fashion focus is China

Trade shows have served as an avenue for fashion brands wanting to enter new geographical markets.  In the United States, ENK International runs a slate of high-profile events such as Coterie.  In Europe, Bread & Butter takes place in Berlin.

In Asia?  Nothing really existed – until now.  THE HUB Hong Kong promises to bring a carefully curated roster of designers and companies to the AsiaWorld-Expo twice a year, paving potential forays into the Asia-Pacific region.

“I’ve actually been in Hong Kong for 25 years, and in that time I’ve launched and ran various brands,” said THE HUB Hong Kong co-founder Richard Hobbs at the event’s opening press conference.  “It’s been a particular frustration for me over that time that there hasn’t been a decent trade show in this part of the world which is comparable to the ones I’ve taken part of in Europe and the U.S.”

The inaugural edition of THE HUB, which took place Aug. 28-30, attracted 100 brands, predominately from the U.S., UK, Japan and Hong Kong.  Despite the size of the continent, the inevitable focus gazed north beyond the famously international borders of its host city, straight into mainland China.


China, according to a study by McKinsey & Company, is expected to account for 20 percent of the global luxury goods market by 2015.  Its retail landscape, however, remains a question mark for brands long established overseas but with no current name recognition in China.  Some companies, like Sunspel of Britain (creators of shorts and polo shirts worn by the actor Daniel Craig in the James Bond movies), have just started to dip their toe in the market and are at THE HUB Hong Kong to gain more insight.  Desigual of Spain initially chose to focus on more established consumer bases like Japan and Singapore, but now plans to open 10 stores in Hong Kong in the next three years.  Barbour has even modified a range of its trademark outerwear for the Asian market, offering a wider palette of colors, shorter sleeves and a narrower fit around the shoulders.

Part of the challenge, according to THE HUB Hong Kong’s China General Manager Clarence Hui, is that for many years, the prime Chinese customer base has preferred well-known luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton.  Now, says Hui, those tastes are changing thanks to a generation of 25- to 35-year-olds preferring more variety in their closets.

“The consumer in China, they would like to see more choice,” Hui said.  “The problem is that we have very good brands like [British knitwear company] John Smedley [with] a really long history…these kinds of brands are very [foreign] to Chinese consumers.  So what we would like to bring are quality brands and quality history to China. I think today, thanks to communication tools, [they] can easily express their views to the end customer.  So it is a big chance for brands to enter China.”

Also on the rise, which will potentially break down more barriers to entry, are multi-brand stores that are able to stock a variety of labels.  The Hong Kong-based Joyce has set up shop in Beijing and Shanghai, and other homegrown boutiques such as Triple-Major and Wuhao bring in additional elements such as traveling art exhibits and design events.