Greater China is falling short in the development of its fashion industry as more and more Chinese designers are looking to London for their big break.
Hong Kong’s government recently announced that it would invest HK$500 million to develop a pilot program to support its fashion industry, according to NOW Toronto. The program, which has been approved for an initial three years, will create an incubation program for design start-ups, provide opportunities for overseas study and internships, and promote local brands.
Hong Kong’s move to improve its fashion industry may be too little too late, as droves of fashion students from greater China are enrolling in the world-renowned London fashion schools.
So why are Chinese and Hong Kong students drawn to London?
Organizations such as British Fashion Council and Fashion Scout, which champion young design talent, are both underwritten by the British fashion industry and the British government. These programs, along with China’s love of Britishness, has led to nearly 75 percent of this year’s London College of Fashion’s MA course being Chinese, according to South China Morning Post. Many of these students then stay in London. In order to get a visa to remain in London, Chinese designers must launch their business there, which makes them eligible for support from the aforementioned programs.
Fashion Scout gave Chinese designers Yifang Wan, Xiao Li, and Youjia Jin their starts when the organization awarded Wan and Li its merit award and named Jin as “One to Watch.”
Hong Kong-born Ryan Lo was selected for New Gen’s showcase, an internationally recognized talent-scouting event, which has been sponsored by Topshop since 2001. Before being discovered by New Gen, for two years Lo was affiliated with Fashion East, a non-profit in East London that allows designers to showcase their designs in London and Paris.
As for Xiao Li, she graduated from the Royal College of Art with an MA and won the Diesel award in 2013. Last year, her designs were showcased at Milan Fashion Week by Vogue Talents, and she is on the shortlist to win the LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize.
“Vogue Talents 2014 gave me an excellent chance to show my work in front of the ‘Vogue’ family and industry people from all over the world,” said Li. Speaking about Fashion Scout, Li said the organization “supported me too, giving me my first opportunity to show during London Fashion Week.”
If Hong Kong and greater China want its young designers to flourish, money is a good start, but more needs to be done to build a community of designers and get brands involved.
image credit: farrukh