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Hongkongers may be spoilt for choice when it comes to shopping, but a new generation of shoppers is demanding more than just variety - they want new and unique brands and concepts. Access to information on the fashion industry from the web and social media means they’re becoming increasingly savvy, and as such are seeking undiscovered labels that place more importance on quality and value at affordable prices. This has led to the growth of a new type of segment in Hong Kong’s retail landscape - the affordable luxury market.

Fashion brand Theory produces timeless pieces that last well past one season of wear


‘Hong Kong is a city with some of the world’s highest spending-power customers. They’re very international and value quality in lifestyle. These past few years, we’ve seen them shop more selectively and look for quality in everything — even basic wardrobe items that will last for seasons, rather than following the seasonal trend,’ says Helen Lip, Director – Brands at Swire Resources, which represents hit Parisian brand The Kooples in Hong Kong.


A category of its own

The affordable luxury category sits somewhere between fast fashion and contemporary, and is growing not only in Asia but around the world. Although many of these brands have an international presence, they still possess an aura of exclusivity thanks to specific values that have resulted in a new niche in the market.


‘Our brand DNA is to offer high-end design and quality at an affordable price. That niche really appeals to our customers in Hong Kong, as well as globally,’ says Marie Honda, managing director of COS.


So what is it about these brands that make them so appealing to shoppers? Like fast fashion, they focus on multiple drops throughout the season so there’s a consistent element of newness for the customer. But rather than follow trends, they create their own, as well as differentiating themselves in other ways.


‘We create intelligent, wearable interpretations of key fashion trends. I believe Whistles pieces add a relevant edge to a woman’s wardrobe - they’re never disposable and always flattering. The quality of the materials and the exclusivity of our prints make us different from fast fashion,’ says Ariane Zagury, whose Rue Madame Fashion Group has brought affordable luxury brands such as Whistles and Phase Eight  to Hong Kong.


A consistent style and sense of authenticity also separates this group from its contemporary and high-street counterparts. COS, which is part of the H&M group, is headquartered in London, allowing the brand’s team of designers to draw inspiration from one of fashion’s edgier capitals. As such, their collections are motivated by the more cerebral worlds of design and architecture rather than the catwalks.


In COS’s Spring / Summer 2018 collection, proportions and details are inspired by paper, from pattern cutting to draping and 3D work. Highlights include reworked trench coats with organic soft shoulders, transparent vests, knitted sets with evolved proportions and tailored pieces with unexpected lengths and cuts.

The brand DNA of COS is to offer high-end design and quality at an affordable price

The Kooples, which recently made its debut in Hong Kong, is another name to watch thanks to its unique take on British and French style. It reinterprets English tailoring and craft by infusing it with a rock ’n’ roll vibe to create a gender-fluid aesthetic that is de rigueur in fashion these days. The latest collection is inspired by music and includes boho-inspired psychedelic floral designs, velvet bombers embroidered with foliage embellishments, leather skirts and tartan-patterned coats


Focus on quality

The biggest differentiator, however, is the superior quality these brands offer, which is often on par with contemporary labels such as Diane von Furstenberg and MSGM. American label Theory, for example, recently launched its Good Wool initiative. This has seen its most environmentally responsible collection to date, using premium, traceable merino wool from a family-owned sheep farm in Tasmania that is woven at a century-old Italian mill using the latest energy-saving technology. The brand aims to grow its sustainable fashion practices further.


But the sustainability of Theory clothing is not just about process - it’s about producing well-made and timeless pieces that last. ‘Quality fabrication will not last just one season. Pieces can last for years, and fast fashion doesn’t have that in comparable quality, fit and comfort. Our customers expect and demand this,’ says a Theory representative.

Fashion brand Theory produces timeless pieces that last well past one season of wear

If numbers are any indication, the affordable luxury market is only set to grow in Asia. Experts also believe that the demand for quality and value is here to stay even though the market is becoming increasingly crowded with choices.


‘Nowadays there’s a clear space for each category: luxury, contemporary, affordable luxury and mass-market. What is interesting is that the same customers will shop more and more into all these categories because they’re buying according to their own judgement. So there’s room for everyone,’ says Zagury.


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