Every year there are international delegates invited to attend New Zealand Fashion Week. I was at the event reviewing and recording stories for RNZ National’s fashion podcast series, My Heels Are Killing Me where I met up with David Wong for episode, Changing The Game.
Hong Kong-based Wong was one of the front row crew this year. By day he’s an advertising executive and by night he writes fashion columns and is one of Hong Kong’s influencers who goes by the tag, @Ifeelcool.
Wong’s audience is still growing. Sitting around 24 thousand, he acknowledges that it’s relatively small compared to what’s happening for global influencers in the fashion industry. The difference – Instagram has just caught on in Asia, and it’s booming.
“I won’t quit my writing, so you can’t lose that battle field.” – David Wong
Wong says he’s one of the lucky few male influencers to have caught the attention of brands. He jumped on the instagram bandwagon fairly early.
“It’s more competitive for women,” says Wong. “The market is very competitive because there are so many good female influencers”.
Many people are leaving China’s social platform Weibo behind for the broader Instagram app. And that means that international brands want to cash in, too. This is the all-pervasive new reality, and it’s global.
“It’s democratic and everyone can get in the game,” says David. “But once you get in the game for some time, your content and then your perspective, starts to show.”
Wong says it’s important to have a point of difference. He was invited to attend New Zealand Fashion Week as an influencer who offers style advice and tips on Chinese fashion platform MyMM (part of the Lane Crawford Group) which stocks luxury international brands at a time when mobile shopping is expanding in China.
MyMM also stocks high-end New Zealand menswear label French 83 – Wong’s other New Zealand connection. He’s an ambassador for the brand, which also has a base in Beijing.
Wong says it’s important to maintain a voice in the industry, despite the increased demand for brands wanting images (and fewer words) to promote their brands. He stills writes his fashion columns for local Hong Kong publications, but says “it’s sad that people only want pretty pictures now.”
Slow to catch onto the instagram train, Wong also says unlike New Zealand, Hong Kong locals are also behind the eight-ball when it comes to how the fashion industry impacts on the environment.
“There’s not much of a vintage market,” he says.
“Even my mother knows how to recycle clothes now, rather than throw them out.”
For the Chinese, old or secondhand items can be associated with bringing bad luck which means that the concept of wearing something that belonged to someone else is not commonplace. Conversely, wearing ‘new clothes’ is auspicious.
With a population of almost 7.5 million, Hong Kong has an immediate consumer market.
Shopping is built into the DNA of every Hong Kong local and it’s renowned as a shopping destination for tourists. Luxury brands are nestled alongside accessible streetwear and local labels. It’s a city designed for continuous shopping from the moment you arrive, until you make your way out of Hong Kong international airport and it’s rows of endless duty free shops that sell anything from gift boxes of biscuits and tea, to more brands of the latest perfume than you’ll ever find on the average department store floor.
“Its like heaven because fast fashion is so cheap, but it’s a modern fairy tale that you need so many things,” says Wong.
While Hong Kong and China might be slow to catch onto the slow fashion movement, they’re getting there, according to Wong. But at the moment ‘it’s about showing the brand.’
“We have an awareness of the latest trends and silhouettes,” says Wong. “But unlike Japan, which has its own fashion identity and they know how to mix designers and high and low fashion, we still don’t feel so confident about how to mix and match,” he says.
Wong was surprised by the international silhouettes that he saw at NZFW and his experience of attending the event challenged his perception of New Zealand’s offerings.
He says it’s outmoded to think that New Zealand design is individualistic and that the aesthetic is Pacific-based.
“There are so many new looks and silhouettes, especially from the graduate designers,” he says. “And I’m sure they would be just as competitive overseas.”
Listen to the podcast (above) to find out what international buyers look for at fashion week, and how the game is changing for international influencers, Mary Seng – Happily Grey (U.S) and David Wong (Hong Kong).