Students of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Institute of Textiles and Clothing (ITC) can now learn in a real business setting to prepare them for future careers in fashion.
Recently opened in October, the retail store-cum-teaching and learning laboratory aims to provide experiential learning while serving as a platform for local design talents.
STORE is a teaching and learning lab that is one of the first of its kind among fashion schools. It operates a physical showroom and an online store, providing students with an outside-of-classroom environment to develop the essential hard and soft skills in solving real-life retail operation issues in areas such as e-commerce, market intelligence, visual marketing, brand management, demand management and shop management and so on.
Dr. Christina Wong, Project Manager of STORE, said the idea for STORE originally came about five years ago when some exchange students asked where they could buy the works of ITC graduates. There were retail stores that carried local brands but there wasn’t anywhere that put local designs in one place. Actual preparation work for the set up of STORE, however, only began a little over a year ago.
“On the teaching front, if you looked at Hong Kong or even the world, there was no platform like this for students to really test their strategies. In the classroom, they are only assessed by professors but with STORE, they can actually put theories into practice and test their ideas on a real business,” she said.
Different courses across ITC use STORE for their projects. Dr. Wong said business competitions will be held where teams are tasked with running STORE for three months and compete on results.
STORE currently showcases over 20 local designer brands by PolyU alumni. By getting alumni to collaborate with students, it also creates a mentorship system where the alumni can share their knowledge, experience and network with students and recent graduates.
There is an assessment process for brands interested in becoming a part of STORE. “We look at personality, creativity and originality, while at the same time we want to have a portfolio of brands that represent the variety of ITC because our curriculum also encompasses things beyond fashion, such as the application of technology and intimate apparel.”
While most of the brands featured in STORE are reasonably established, some are new labels founded by recent graduates. In this case, ITC can also offer them assistance in finding production partners willing to take on smaller orders.
While STORE is situated within the PolyU campus, Dr. Wong also hopes to set up pop-up stores in other commercial areas so the public can access the works of ITC graduates more easily. With the help of alumni’s network in mainland China, there is also the possibility of bringing fresh graduates to do trade shows there to expand their business opportunities.
Stanley Kwok won two awards in the 2018 Red Dot Design Concept Awards. KnitWarm, the brand created by Kwok, has developed a highly functional KnitWarmTM Wrap, which has the function of compression and support with its stretchable braces and soothing muscles with a patented self-heating module and 3D breathable knitting technique. The award-winning WristWrap, meanwhile, is an excellent wearable tech item that fuses technology and fashion.
Match Wong set up deMattitude in 2016. Combining clean lines and contours with exquisite textiles, he creates a unique and harmonious design that fully reflects minimalism and simplicity. His signature works have been recognised by artists Kary Ng and Hatau and were featured in the New York fashion magazine Glassbook.
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Aquarellie is a brand created with the love of flowers and watercolours. In 2015, Kellie Chu decided to quit her full-time job as a fashion designer and become a watercolour painter. With Aquarellie, she applies digital transfer-print techniques onto paintings to make goods including umbrellas, tote bags and handkerchiefs.