10 Asian Designers to Watch Tours to Shanghai

Virtually no businesses can fail to see the vast potential of the Chinese market. Going particularly strong are the fashion and luxury markets. International consultancy McKenzie & Company and media outlet The Business of Fashion predict that this year China will “overtake the US as the world’s largest fashion market.” While Chinese consumers have been known for their taste for international brands, young shoppers are taking over the mainstream and finding new interests in local and other Asian brands.

Prestigious lists like Fashion Asia Hong Kong's (FAHK) 10 Asian Designers to Watch come in handy to give exposure to the cream of emerging designers. Assessed by a panel of international fashion experts, the list this year presents 10 outstanding designers from Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Mainland and Malaysia. After a showcase in PMQ last December, FAHK brought the exhibition to Shanghai’s Lane Crawford in March. Two of our own Fashion Incubation Programme (FIP) design brands, Cynthia & Xiao and Ffixxed Studios, earned their places in the list. While they previously shared with us their thoughts about the recognition and Hong Kong designers’ edge in Asia, we further talked with them to catch a glimpse of the second stop of the exhibition and their experience in the Chinese fashion scene. 

Coinciding with the Shanghai Fashion Week, the exhibition of 10 Asian Designers to Watch was naturally a must-see for fashion buyers and fashionistas. But the reach went beyond industry players thanks to the venue which is located in a shopping mall. All sorts of shoppers had got the chance to stumble across the young designers’ fascinating works. Talking about the fashion scene in the city, Ffixxed Studios sees its openness and diversity, “It’s very engaged both locally and internationally. The community is strong, making the environment very energising.” Cynthia & Xiao put it simply, “Shanghai always has a good fashion vibe.”

10 Asian Designers to Watch
Shanghai’s Lane Crawford

Both design brands have gained a foothold in the Chinese fashion market. How did they first set foot into it? Cynthia & Xiao said they had got lucky, “We went to Shanghai to search for a showroom to represent us. We managed to find one and they’ve been working with us since.” Ffixxed Studios grasped the chance when their friend, who started a fashion business in Beijing, noticed customers’ interest in them. “Our friend started helping us to wholesale in China and from there it has continued to grow.” They then became a regular at the Shanghai Fashion Week and even opened an office in the city recently. But in terms of strategy, “It’s about engaging with our customers here and understanding who they are and what they want,” they said. Cynthia & Xiao agrees that the products are the key, “The competition is heating up and it’s not as easy as before. It’s down to creating high-quality and unique items that people can remember.”

In building a fashion brand in a market completely different from Hong Kong, it would not be a surprise that both of them have hit the wall at some points. Cynthia & Xiao said the biggest challenge is the myriad selling regulations in China. Luckily, one half of the brand, Xiao, is based in Beijing and has got a good grip on the issue. The difficulty Ffixxed Studios faced is not that different, “As foreigners, it’s a little complicated when it comes to establishing a company in China. We need to learn a lot about doing business there.” Nevertheless, they believe building a local team pays off, especially for young designers who want to grow a brand in China. “It’s crucial to engage with the consumers here and to gain first-hand knowledge and experience of the atmosphere in China which is complex and rapidly evolving.”