In the international fashion scene, there are not many fine clothes designed by Macao designers. But the small town of Macao has its own advantage—various trade shows organised in Macao each year provide broad windows for local designers to seek international buyers. Talented designers from mainland China, Macao, Hong Kong and Taiwan gather at the annual Macao Fashion Festival, and in their eyes, opportunities are everywhere in Macao’s development of fashion.
When observing characteristics of fashion consumers from mainland China, Macao, Hong Kong and Taiwan, renowned Taiwan designer Hsu Yenlin– whose brand stores can be found in France and the mainland– said that all regions have different fashion styles and preferences according to factors like geography and climate. “Mainlanders have stronger performance abilities, but attach more importance to brand reputations; Hong Kong’s fashion market unifies elements from all over the world and has better taste; Taiwan consumers attach importance to personal styles, thus giving rise to many local brands; Macao is mainly casual, but the market is not big enough to accommodate more designers. I believe there is huge space for development in the future,” she said.
The predicament facing the international fashion market is that famous brands are continuously growing, while the living space for small but unique young brands is shrinking. Hsu said that it takes an adequate atmosphere and marketing wisdom to nurture fashion brands. People’s need and attitude to fashion cannot stop at “dressing up for occasions like weddings, but it doesn’t matter for casual hangouts”. She said: “The most difficult breakthrough for young designers is to find target consumers of their brands and their selling points are too fragmented. Therefore, amateur designers should not only focus on developing their brands, but also need to accumulate experience in marketing and storage management.” She suggested that apart from providing regional cooperation platform for local designers, Macao authorities should also organise more materials exhibitions to enrich elements of local fashion.
Like many designers in Hong Kong and Macao, Hong Kong designer Harrison Wong, who focuses mainly on male fashion, has to overcome the issue of rental for his store. Fortunately, Hong Kong authorities rolled out preferential measures last year, gathering local designers to set up stores in the same district at lower rents, thus attracting Wong to open his personal brand store. Now half of his revenue comes from local consumers and overseas orders take up the other half.
Wong said: “The start-up cost of the fashion industry is high. It is hard for Hong Kong and Macao designers to rely solely on local markets—they must develop overseas.” Wong participates in exhibitions in different regions regularly to seek overseas buyers. With the development of the Internet, ways and opportunities to engage buyers have increased. He said: “Instead of attending exhibitions and visiting booths, a lot of European buyers have switched to the Internet to seek new designers. Designers must put more effort to maintain online exposure.”
As a senior, Wong understands the difficulties facing new designers. They have to save up so as to attend exhibitions after exhibitions until they accumulate sufficient buyers to keep running. They also need to maintain their passion for fashion in order to survive the long route. Wong said that despite the development of fashion in Macao is not as mature as other regions, designers have to persist in their own styles and refrain from blindly following the crowd to retain customers.
Local brand Jose Design, which focuses on parent-child clothing, has been established for only a year. Designer Bing Cheong became an apprentice to learn how to make evening gowns before the establishment of the brand, and participated actively in fashion shows. She only started engaging in the manufacturing of clothing in recent years. Cheong said: “Working in the fashion design industry in Macao is a path beset with difficulties. Designers without the support of manufacturers need to find manufacturers, materials, manage production lines, engage in marketing and image promotion, etc. It is extremely difficult for designers to shoulder these on their own.” Thus, the team of her brand is consisted of three part-time designers, who are responsible for different things.
Currently Cheong is still figuring out her target consumers, the brand style, production method and pricing. Despite various assistances by the government to help seek opportunities, there are very few events like the fashion weeks, and fashion-related sale platforms are fragmented. She thinks that local designers’ commercial sales skills are not yet mature, and it may take some time for them to train themselves as businessmen at the same time.