Fashion weeks boost domestic design firmsThe search for international fashion trade has been made easier in Korea.
The 2003 Fall Fashion Week at the Seoul Trade Exhibition Center in Samseong-dong earlier this month gave buyers the opportunity to survey the diversity and quality of Korean fashion items.
With more than 200 local firms specializing in wholesale and made-to-order garments and accessories participating, the exhibition was by far the largest of the Korean fashion industry.
In an attempt to support firms with potential for growth and to attract orders from overseas, the Korea Fashion Association, a government body, has organized trade exhibitions for Korean companies since 1986. Through the years, the exhibition has had many ups and downs because of economic and political fluctuations, but finally the association is seeing consistent progress.
In the beginning, the event had the grand ambition of targeting the global market. But over the past three years, the semiannual event has steadily grown to target Asian buyers, mostly Japanese and Chinese.
According to the trends report by the Fashion Industry Association, exports to Japan increased the most steeply of any Asian market last year, at a rate of 21 percent compared to 13 percent to China. As a result, luring Japanese buyers and diverting them from going to China became the priority among Korean exporters.
This year the exhibition attracted 4,000 buyers from Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. They signed trade deals amounting to 8 billion won (about $6.7 million), but local participants gave mixed reviews.
Lee Kyung-won, one of Korea’s leading fashion designers, didn’t expect much from the exhibition in the beginning, but changed her mind and redecorated her booth after she saw buyers’ interest.
The exhibition provided the the new knitwear firm Sungil Knit with a good experience. “Buyers didn’t buy anything from us, but they noticed our display showing handcrafted items made in China,” said marketing director James Chung. “And maybe we can find out what we should target in the future when we launch our brand commercially.”
Shin Fur Co., specializing in export fur coats to Europe, received orders from Hong Kong buyers quickly. The representative at the booth said, “Because of our European-style fashions, we don’t consider Korea as our market, so this is good exposure to make new connections.”
Park Young-soo, the manager of the Korea Fashion Association, is pleased that the quality and the scale of the Fashion Week has improved. “Korean fashion is still in the process of evolution, but we’re pleased that the real objective of the exhibition ― to link local firms with overseas buyers ― was met,” she said.
Firms interested in the next event, “2004 Spring Fashion Week,” scheduled for April 1 through 3, can visit the official Web site at www.koreafashion.org or www.seoulfashionweek.or.kr.
by Ines Cho