The Hong Kong Design Centre’s Fashion Incubation Programme aims to discover the the next big names in Hong Kong fashion.
Creative industries have an increasingly important role to play in the global economy, and any city vying for growth must incorporate design into every aspect of development and find talent that can help bring about that growth. According to Dr. Edmund Lee, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Design Centre (HKDC), a creative economy is the future and one that can contribute significantly to GDP.
The Hong Kong government has acknowledged this in recent policy addresses and fashion is one of the industries that is receiving generous support. In 2015, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau announced the establishment of the Advisory Group on the Implementation of Fashion Initiatives (Fashion Advisory Group), while the Financial Secretary announced in the 2015-16 Budget that a series of measures to promote the development of the fashion industry would be launched on a pilot basis.
The Fashion Advisory Group, which comprises 15 members from the fields of fashion, design, clothing, textiles and academia, was set up to advise and co-ordinate the implementation of these measures. One of them is the Fashion Incubation Programme (FIP).
The HKDC has led one of the most comprehensive incubation programmes on design and acts as advisor to the government on all things design-related. It also organises world-renowned events such as Business of Design Week and Knowledge of Design Week. With the FIP, HKDC is now tasked with supporting fashion designers with the potential to become globally-recognised stars.
While one third of participants in the Design Incubation Programme (DIP) are fashion-related, the FIP differs from the DIP in the level of achievement required, according to Dr. Lee. “Participants are expected to be more entrepreneurial, with at least three years’ experience in building their own brand and two collections shown internationally. They also need to show real desire to develop their brands and excel,” he says.
The FIP focuses on entrepreneurship and talent, as well as character traits such as passion, determination, discipline and humility. “We want a bit of star quality that we can push to the next level and collaborative personalities that can form partnerships with brands.”
Dr. Lee explains that applicants are expected to show how joining the FIP can push their creative boundaries as well as their ability to form partnerships, create prototypes and pick up new knowledge. On the business side, they should have a business model in place and a solid, realistic business plan with the potential for expansion.
In the FIP, 15 designers are selected over three years to join a two-year programme. In addition to studio space at the Clothing Industry Training Authority (CITA) in Kowloon Bay, the programme offers financial support, expert business and technical advice and other resources to nurture these fashion entrepreneurs.
Networking and mentorship are important aspects of FIP, with veteran advisors in the business of fashion from merchandising and branding to sales and marketing. Through one-on-one or small group mentorships, participants will receive valuable industry insights, learn how to present themselves to international buyers, and understand their own strengths and weaknesses for continuous improvement.
Over time, the FIP aims to cultivate a community of designers that work together to create a better Hong Kong so it’s not a competition but a collaboration. Dr. Lee stresses the importance of a collaborative creative culture that encompasses not just one design field but all disciplines.
“The HKDC has been strategically advising the government on interdisciplinary innovation that is essential for survival in this highly competitive global economy. You can see changes in lifestyle and consumer behaviour when design and technology are combined in powerful ways. Our different programmes and platforms work together to enhance the integration of different design fields and promote interdisciplinary innovation,” he says.