Blog: Leonie BarrieFrom costs to the catwalk...

Leonie Barrie | 7 October 2010

just-style editor Leonie Barrie (far left) with the winning entries in the IAF International Design Award: Greece (second from left), India (centre) and Taiwan (second from right)

just-style editor Leonie Barrie (far left) with the winning entries in the IAF International Design Award: Greece (second from left), India (centre) and Taiwan (second from right)

I've been in Hong Kong this week for the 26th IAF (International Apparel Federation) World Apparel Convention, which is making a return to the city after a break of 13 years. And not surprisingly, comparisons are being drawn between the main issues concerning the industry back then and the topics headlining today's conversations.

Back in 1997, the clothing and textile industry was most preoccupied with quotas and the end of the quota system. Now it's the global market and economic recovery, with new challenges added to the mix including raw material prices and cleaner production technologies.

But it's also fascinating to see that while the topics topping the agenda have undergone a complete shift, some of the figures are much the same. For instance, in 1997 the Hong Kong textile and apparel industry employed 76,000 people and generated exports worth $22.9bn. And in 2009, while the number of workers has dwindled by around one-quarter to just 20,000, textile and clothing exports are hardly changed at $22.7bn.

Admittedly, most manufacturing and jobs have shifted across the border to mainland China, where an abundance of land and workers has helped cut costs. But remaining in Hong Kong are design and sourcing, R&D, sales, marketing, finance, management and logistics - the added-value roles which prove the city continues to play an important role in trade, especially fashion and textile trade.

Another exciting development seen over the past 13 years has been the emergence of a new generation of fashion designers from what were traditional manufacturing hubs - many of whom are attracting worldwide attention. The IAF also tries to nurture these designers by raising their profile on the international stage through its IAF International Designer Award.

Sitting on the judging panel at last night's event, it was a tough task to choose between collections entered into the competition by designers from Hong Kong, Greece, Taiwan, India, Macau, Spain and Mexico. But we eventually decided on the winners, picking Pankaj & Nidhi (India) for most creative design; Daphne Iliaki (Greece) as winner of the most commercial design; and Chia-Wei Kang (Taiwan) for her amazing fabric work.


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