Fashion insiders should take note of The Hub, a new bi-annual B2B event that connects brands with buyers in the Asia-Pacific region. Held in Hong Kong at the end of August, it's modelled on trade fairs such as Project in New York and Vegas or Bread and Butter in Berlin. Buyers that will come in vary from the Imaginex group in Hong Kong to Club 21 in Singapore to Central Group from Thailand, with brand names from Johanna Ho to Sunspel by JW Anderson, so there's a good array of big-name distributors coming from a variety of styles and price points. The fair was founded by denim big boys Peter Caplowe (who brought Evisu into the international market) and Richard Hobbs, a sportswear and denim label owner, so their connections have secured a pretty good line-up. They gave us a preview of what to expect this year, whether you're a buyer or simply "one of Hong Kong's legendary shopping ninjas"!
• What is unique about HUB, and why did you decide to found it?
The Hub will only admit credible international brands and visitors are by invitation only and will only be recognized multi brand retailers or retail operators who can partner with international brands. The shows in the region are non-selective in terms of who they admit as exhibitors and visitors making them completely unacceptable as forums for true international standard brands to present themselves and unattractive for premium retailers. We decided to found it as we are both from the branded fashion business and were deeply frustrated by poor quality of regional branded fashion trade shows.
• Given you guys already run your own brands, how did you even find time to put this together?
We have decided to put all our other activities on hold as starting an event like this is hugely time consuming and we would not be doing justice to the people from our networks who have supported us to get this project of the ground.
• How many brands will attend? Who are some of the hottest labels -- besides the bigger-name brands already well-known -- that you're excited are attending?
Our original target was was 80-100 but as we are already at 70 we are now targeting 100-120. We have a good mixture of bigger brands like Y# and Barbour nad smaller more edgy and niche brands. I am particularly excited to have Johanna Ho, HK’s own world class designer, John Smedley my personal favourite knitwear brand and Madeleine Thompson another Hong Konger whose collection is sold in stores like Liberty’s and Barney’s We also have Sunspel which is designed by JW Anderson – probably the hottest designer in the world right now.
• What's the demographic breakdown, in terms of designers coming from which countries?
About 50% Europe, N. America, 20% Japan and 10% other Asia
• And who are the big buyers coming in?
• We already have commitments from buyers from Lane Crawford, Harvey Nichols from HK, Club 21 from Singapore, Cental Group from Thailand, Parkson from Malaysia, Beams from Japan basically anyone who is anybody in the region! On the distributor side We have the biggest Australian distributor, True Alliance we have confirmations from Swire, Bluebell, YGM from HK Mark fairwhale, China Outfitters and Metrs Bonwe from China and we have only just started on the visitor recruitment element of our campaign as you have to get the brands first.
• Why should fashion lovers care?
We are encouraging all the brands we bring in to hold events during the time the Hub is on. Although we as event organisers are focusing on bringing in brands and visitors all the brands want to connect with YOU the fashion lovers – basically HK will become a fashion mad for a week each season in the same way it becomes art mad during Art week.
• For Hongkongers, does that mean we will be seeing greater diversity of brands being brought into town?
Absolutely – The smaller Hong Kong tetailers do an amazing job of running successful businesses despite the crippling rents in this town but they simply do not have the resources to go on expensive buying trips as well. From now on the best brands in the world will be coming to their doorsteps keen to sell to them. This in turn will put a rocket up any of the larger retailers who have become complacent because they know they are the only ones with access to international brands. I truly believe the impact on the fashion retail scene in HK will be transformational. It will also make HK the regional centre for branded fashion making it more and more attractive for brands to be here.
• Why "invitation only"? What do you think this exclusivity will breed ?
This is a business show if you are not in a position to do business with international brands there is no reason for you to be there and you will simply be wasting peoples time. That said we will be actively scouring town to bring in smaller cool retailers so we are only being exclusive to the extend that we cannot let in people not associated with the business and as above there will be tons of associated events where the brands we bring in will be desperate to attract HK’s legendary shopping ninjas!