During this spring and summer, six local fashion designers take turn to showcase their design, their aesthetic pursuits and their ideas of good quality of life in Macao Fashion Gallery. Held between April and October, the “Brand Story – Macao Original Fashion Exhibition” exhibits and sells items designed by MACON, JADE.L, SOUL, Worker Playground, ZICS and Salut ça va?. In this issue, Jade Leong of JADE.L and Jane Chan of MACON tell us their insights into the operation of the fashion business.
A burning desire to design
Jade Leong: brand building in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan
“When I was studying in junior high school, I had already been interested in fashion design. I bought fashion magazines. Every issue. When I read stories about those international brands, I wondered how they come up with a fashion collection,” said local designer Jade Leong. She spoke with a smile on her face about her first experience in designing clothes. “When I was in high school, Macau Productivity and Technology Transfer Centre and my school co-ran a course. It was regarded as an extra-curricular activity. The course taught how to draw fashion sketches and it inspired me to learn fashion design.”
After graduated from high school, Jade continued to study fashion design in Shih Chien University in Taipei. When she returned to Macao upon graduation, she started working as a fashion buyer. With a burning desire in fashion design, she wielded her pen during her leisure times and started sketching again. Started with making samples and got her clothing made, Jade created her own brand “Jade. L” step by step. She expressed that the Cultural Affairs Bureau’s Subsidy Programme for Fashion Design on Sample Making has helped her a lot when she designed her very first collection. “It has substantially lowered the costs of fashion production. If I were not able to get the support from the Cultural Affairs Bureau, I may not be able to get started in a fashion design career.”
Apart from getting subsidies, opportunities, sales channels and feedback are also important to an emerging designer. Jade described that the Macau Productivity and Technology Transfer Center is like a mentor. It not only provides designers with information of various competitions and exhibitions, its Macao Fashion Gallery is ready to help promote their brands and get customer feedback. “The very first time that my work was shown to customers in Macao was via Macao Fashion Gallery. Every time the gallery gives designers feedback and it really helps us to reach potential customers. Also, the gallery attracts tourists to visit so we are able to know the difference between local and overseas consumers’ preferences.”
Last year, Jade. L’s brick-and-mortar store was opened in Macao. Points of sale are also established in the Mainland and Taiwan. Jade revealed that soaring rents, small market size and high costs in Macao are the factors that make her proactively and strategically tap into overseas market. She participates into different types of exhibitions so as to promote the brand. “The first time I participated in a trade show was the fashion fair in Shanghai and this opportunity was referred by the Macau Productivity and Technology Transfer Centre. The result was satisfactory. A lot of consumers in the Mainland are interested in my products. I got more opportunities to collaborate with different parties beyond Macao.” At the time of writing, Jade was negotiating possibilities to collaborate with shopping malls in Xian.
“I hope that points of sale of my brand would be established in the Mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao in five years’ time. It can be in the form of franchise, consignment or bulk purchasing. I hope there will be growth and more points of sale.”
Jane Chan: “Fashion is not just clothes”
The small room on the second floor of Macao Fashion Gallery was adorned with wonderful illustrations of Macao’s architectural heritage. A series of leisure wear was displayed there and a relaxing vibe permeated the whole room. “I wanted to use travel as a theme to showcase my work,” said Jane Chan, one of the participating designers. “I want to promote slow life and travel light. These are concepts of living a more relaxing life.”
Jane is one of the major designers of the local fashion brand MACON. Graduated from Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology in 2010, she worked as a fashion designer in Beijing for several years and finally returned to Macao in 2013. Jane was one of the eight beneficiaries of the first edition of the Cultural Affairs Bureau’s Subsidy Programme for Fashion Design on Sample Making. A fashion show dedicated to her own brand was also held in Macao Fashion Festival in 2014. “Designers in Beijing have a lot of opportunities. You can run your own studio, or work for certain brands. You work in a team and there are different things you can try. Fashion design is a relatively new concept in Macao. Not many companies hire fashion designers and this forces designers to equip with all-round skills. Apart from having excellent design, you need to have brilliant business ideas to make your business grow.”
Jane joined MACON in 2015. She frankly expressed that the market in Macao is too small and supporting facilities are very limited. For instances, suppliers have been to sourced outside Macao, and promotion strategy also directs to overseas markets. “If you want to build up a brand in Macao, it’s impossible to just work nine to five.” However, Macao’s support to the industry is stronger than other regions. In addition to subsidising the start-up costs and sample making, places like Macao Fashion Gallery and C-SHOP also help promoting local brands.
“We are not just selling clothes. We are promoting a lifestyle. It’s difficult to tell a story if you sell clothes in a boutique. Macao Fashion Gallery has a cultural vibe and it’s easy for people to take in the atmosphere and understand the stories behind our brand. Holding exhibitions here is a good opportunity for us to promote our brand.” Macao Fashion Gallery also gathers customer feedback and report to the designers every season. “It is very useful for building product structure and understanding what our customers need.”
MACON is very active to participate in trade shows and events like Hong Kong Fashion Week so as to promote the brand in different cities. Its major sales channel is online but it also has collaboration with local boutiques. Jane hopes that in two years’ time she can collaborate with other brands to run a shop specialised in creative products so as to allow customers to experience different brands. “I love working collectively. There is a big difference between running one’s own shop and managing a shop collectively. After all small shop is difficult to catch attention. I hope that in two years’ time there will be two to three collective shops and we will be able to do more online to offline businesses.”