Annie Lin's east-meets-west fashion designs are snapped up in Europe and Australia by women looking for hip casual wear. But when Ms. Lin decided to open her first boutique devoted to her label, Anniewho, she chose to do it in a place where her designs are practically unknown -- Hong Kong.
'Although I was raised in Sydney and will always consider that as my home, I chose to return to Hong Kong, my birth town,' says the 34-year-old, whose family moved to Australia when she was 8. For Ms. Lin, who doesn't speak Cantonese, the attraction of Hong Kong 'to reconnect with my roots' was too powerful.
She's not the only Hong Kong-born designer trying to carve out a career here after making it somewhere else first. Instead of decamping to the global fashion capitals of New York or Paris like other big Asian fashion names have done at the first whiff of success -- think Hong Kong's Vivienne Tam, Malaysia's Zang Toi and South Korea's Shin Choi -- many young Chinese designers who trained overseas are opting to base their international fashion brands in Hong Kong.
Working in their favor is a changing local retail environment: Well-heeled shoppers are increasingly embracing local designs in addition to luxury foreign brands.
'Nowadays in Hong Kong, I think people are less brand conscious and enjoy mixing and matching different kinds of clothes trying to search for individuality,' says Ranee K, an established Hong Kong designer. Her popular evening dresses have turned her into a celebrity in Asia.
Johanna Ho, 35, was born and raised in Hong Kong and studied fashion at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. Her first break on the retail fashion scene came when Barneys New York stocked one of her collections. That led to orders from shops in Japan, where the bulk of Ms. Ho's sales come from today. Her collections of simple silhouettes and comfortable knit-wear are found in boutiques from Tokyo to Osaka. She even has a free-standing boutique in Tokyo's trendy Roppongi Hills development and her designs -- clothes, belts, bags, shoes and jewelry -- are sold on a Japanese e-tailing Web site. Boutiques in Australia, Europe, the U.K. and the U.S. also sell her clothes.
Even so, Ms. Ho chose to base her company in Hong Kong mostly because she wanted to be close to home. But she says, 'there are many talented people and efficient production factories, which gives this city plenty of potential to craft a successful brand.'
When Ms. Ho started her company in Hong Kong a decade ago, she was still buzzing from the good reviews of her collection's fashion-week shows in London and Tokyo. Hong Kong stores then, however, weren't interested in carrying local brands, she says.
Times have changed. Today, Ms. Ho says her clothes sell well at the trendy shop D-Mop in Hong Kong. She attributes the evolution of the Hong Kong retail scene partly to the success of local designers on the international fashion scene such as Ms. Tam. What's more, tai tais, or local wealthy women, 'now are much more open-minded,' Ms. Ho says. They don't just wear 'an entire outfit of the same brand.' And younger shoppers, who get their cues from international fashion and style magazines, are more 'willing to try new things and play around with different styles and labels,' she adds.
Ms. Ho's ultimate goal: 'As a Chinese designer, I want to create a successful fashion brand that is totally 'Made in Hong Kong.''
Sister-and-brother designing duo Kay Wong, 27, and Jing Wong, 26, were born in Hong Kong and went to the U.K. to study. After getting a master's in constructed textiles, Kay sold a spring collection to Japanese department store United Arrows Ltd., kickstarting the pair's career. By 2006, they had decided to base their label in Hong Kong. 'We think it's definitely the most economical way to start a brand,' says Ms. Wong of her hometown. Compared with London, 'rent is cheaper, fabric and all the materials and suppliers are more than half the price,' she says. Plus, 'the tax rate is lower,' and 'it's easy for us to travel to the factory directly.'
In Hong Kong, their clothes sell at boutiques including Gallerie de Vie and Azona as well as Seibu department store. Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong has bought the exclusive rights to their accessories line.
To help maintain their international profile, the pair was able to tap a new Hong Kong program to support local talent. They received a $1,300 grant this year to help pay for fashion-show trips abroad. 'It's a great scheme to help young entrepreneurs out,' says Ms. Wong. 'It really encourages us to try more different trade shows around the world.' This season, the Wongs plan to present their spring clothing line in Berlin, Tokyo, Paris, London and Milan.
现年34岁的Annie Lin说：“虽然我在悉尼长大，并会一直把那里视为自己的家乡，但我还是选择回到我的出生地香港。”8岁那年随家人移居澳大利亚的Annie Lin已不会说广东话，但香港对她的吸引力太大了，因为她在这里可以找到自己的根脉。
还有其他一些生于香港的设计师也像Annie Lin一样，事业在海外起步后希望回到香港获得进一步发展。而知名的亚洲时装品牌往往一获成功，便将业务重心移到纽约或巴黎这样的全球时尚之都，比如来自香港的谭燕玉(Vivienne Tam)，马来西亚的洗书瀛(Zang Toi)以及韩国的Shin Choi就是如此。与这些设计师不同，许多在西方接受过培训的中国年轻设计师选择将自创的国际时装品牌立足于香港。
现年35岁的Johanna Ho在香港出生长大，曾在伦敦中央圣马丁艺术与设计学院(Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design)学习服装设计。纽约巴内斯(Barneys New York)收入了她设计的一个系列，从而使她在零售时装界崭露头角。日本商店的订单随之而来，现在Johanna Ho的大部分订单都来自日本。从东京到大阪的专卖店中都可以看到她设计的服装，它们拥有简单的裁剪和舒 的针织质地。她甚至还在日本的时尚宝地六本木新城(Roppongi Hills)拥有一家独立专卖店，她设计的服装、腰带、手袋、鞋以及珠宝在日本一家网上商店也有出售。澳大利亚、欧洲、英国和美国的专卖店也出售她设计的服装。
时代变了。Johanna Ho说，现在她的服装在香港的时尚商店D-Mop热卖。她认为，香港零售界的进步要部分归功于谭燕玉等本地设计师在国际时装界获得的成功。Johanna Ho指出，不仅如此，现在香港本地的阔太太们思想也更开放了，她们不再全身上下穿同一品牌的服装。她还说，年轻顾客们通过国际时装和风尚杂志了解新的时尚潮流，她们更乐意尝试新事物，尝试不同的风格和品牌。
Johanna Ho的终 目标是：作为一位中国设计师，希望创立一个完全“香港制造”的成功时装品牌。
现年27岁的Kay Wong和26岁的Jing Wong是一对服装设计姐弟档。他们出生在香港，然后到英国求学。姐姐Kay Wong在获得了结构纺织硕士学位后，把自己设计的一个春季服装系列卖给了日本的百货商店United Arrows Ltd.，从此开创了姐弟俩的事业。在2006年之前，他们就已决定把自己品牌的大本营设在香港。Kay Wong这样谈到自己的故乡：“我们认为这绝对是创立一个品牌的最经济方式。”她说，与伦敦相比，香港的房租低，布料、各种材料以及配套产品的价格也只有伦敦的一半。并且税也低，他们去工厂也很方便。
在香港，他们的服装在Gallerie de Vie和Azona等专卖店以及Seibu百货商店有售。香港Harvey Nichols已经买下其饰品系列的独家经销权。