China's accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will benefit Hong Kong's clothing and fashion industry, as more overseas companies seek local knowledge to enter the market, according to industry officials.

Speaking prior to the Hong Kong Fashion Week - Fall/Winter Collection 2001 trade show, which opens today at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, local designer Kevin Yeung said the SAR should establish itself as the "fashion city" of Asia to take advantage of China's WTO entry.

Mr Yeung, chairman of the Hong Kong Fashion Designers Association, said that as production costs are lower elsewhere, Hong Kong companies need to sustain their recent trend of moving into high-end production and design completion.

"We have to move more to high-end products and designer collections because the profit margin will be better," Mr Yeung said. "We also need to be more competitive, and establish Hong Kong as a design centre.

Dr Harry Lee Nai-shee, chairman of the Hong Kong Garment Manufacturing Association, agrees there are advantages, but not immediately. "There will be a lot more retailing going into China, and Hong Kong manufacturers will have a chance to compete more openly in the market. But right now, consumer power is still not there. My guess is it will take five to 10 years."

He was quick to point out, however, the value of the "Made in Hong Kong" label. In the first 10 months of last year, Hong Kong's total exports of clothing and accessories stood at $155.6bn, and is on track to surpass 1999's total of $173.5bn.

"For the export market, the "Made in Hong Kong' label still has some value - especially for designer-type labels. One reason people buy in Hong Kong is because of the quota system and the quality of the goods."