Is Hong Kong’s Fashion Future Farm the New Fashion East?

Fashion Month may be over, but the search for the next big talent never really stops.

While all of the major fashion cities in Europe and abroad have their very own talent scout - Milan with Sara Maino and London with Fashion East’s Lulu Kennedy - Hong Kong has finally found its champion, Edith Law, the founder and chairwoman of Fashion Future Farm.

Born and raised in a family with a background in Hong Kong’s fashion and textile industry, one could say that Law has always had a proficiency towards the creative arts. However, in the very beginning, Law steered away from her family background veering towards working in investment banking in New York, London and Hong Kong.

It was only after a fortuitous coincidence, where she ended up heading the business side of a fashion company, that she got back into fashion.

“During the time I worked in New York, I saw there were so many supports to the creative industry and fashion industry in New York which is well developed,” Law said. “I believe Hong Kong fashion designers are as talented as other countries and could meet international standards that they are well equipped and have the potential to compete internationally. Therefore I and a group of enthusiastic fashion entrepreneurs and professionals from different backgrounds set up Fashion Farm Foundation.”

Established in 2012, Fashion Future Farm aims at building synergy among Hong Kong-based fashion designers, cultural practitioners, industry experts and retailers and pledges to promote the city’s fashion industry by encouraging and fostering collaborations between business, lifestyle, educational and cultural sectors.

The Hong Kong fashion scene isn’t relatively known unlike, of course, other major fashion cities and other new up-and-coming ones like Copenhagen and Tbilisi. In point of fact, Law thinks that compared to European cities, there are less independent designers in Hong Kong, as wearing local designer brands there isn’t a very popular choice amongst locals. Only recently, she has seen retailers such as Lane Crawford, Joyce and I.T investing in local talent by stocking their collections in their stores.

Still, how do Law and her team select the young designers that will be fostered by her team? Do fashion initiatives like hers have a benchmark for talent?

We select designers with creativity, marketability and local impulse. Our panel of judges has experienced the industry from all aspects, from fashion design to styling, retail, and more. FFF looks for authentic and out-of-the-box design and showcases brands that have strong bonding to the local fashion scene, which could represent as "Hong Kong-based Fashion,” said Law. “I think the creative industry is bounded, so we should not set too many restrictions and conditions to designers.”

Nurturing young creatives and making sure their brands survive in this increasingly competitive day and age isn’t an easy task and this is precisely why it is necessary for young creatives to understand that collaboration and international exchange is one of the most important things they can do after being provided with financial support. It is with this in mind that Law decided to organise initiatives in partnership with major fashion weeks in Paris, London, New York as well as Japan, Singapore and Shanghai. For Autumn Winter 2020, Law brought this year’s selected designers to Paris and Dubai in order to stimulate exchange and explore larger markets. 

Nevertheless, although creative scouts like Maino and Kennedy make finding talent look so easy, making sure young creatives have all they need to start their own business isn’t easy and Law knows it.

“We sponsor designers to join showroom in Paris and provide all-round support of HKFG Presentation and Reception, like production, casting, styling and public relations. Apart from event support, we also give suggestions to fresh designers to develop and grow their brand. For driving their brand awareness and sale, FFF spares no effort to promote Hong Kong fashion force to the media and buyer every season,” she explained. 

And over time, although FFF’s growth started relatively slowly, the results seem to be showing. HKFG programs have supported around 50 fashion Hong Kong labels in total from their inception. As the popularity and acceptance of HKFG increased, the orders of designers did the same. Fashion Farm Foundation reports having accelerated Hong Kong labels to gain over HK$10M revenue from HKFG projects in the past 2 years (AW18, SS19, AW19 & SS20). Some labels have outstanding revenue all along that increases by 10% every quarter. Besides sales, the company’s programs also have a significant increase in PR value. In 2016, Fashion Future farm states that it only produced $2million and recently it has exceeded $10million. Moreover, the collections of HKFG labels were sold at well-known international retailers such as Lane Crawford, Galeries Lafayette, Harvey Nichols, Urban Outfitters, Shopbop, etc.

However, given the current pandemic the world is facing, how are Law and her team at FFF reacting in order to make sure its talents still receive the support they need?

“Instead of face-to-face meetings, we adopted online meetings. However, that didn’t hinder the work progress, we communicated and got work done on time. Because of the virus, many people do not go out for shopping, making the store business bleak.  So, some retailers in Hong Kong are using new ways for customers and adjusting the sales strategies to keep or increase their sales. For example, some luxury brands started to develop the online store, provide online customer service and courier service,” she clarified. 

And, as perfectly demonstrated by Law and her team, finding new ways to re-invent oneself might just be what we need right now.

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