Hong Kong fashion designer Harrison Wong is moving up in menswear
Twenty-year industry veteran targets fashion-forward dressers who are looking to stand out.
As the founder of the only menswear shop at PMQ (Police Married Quarters) in Central, Harrison Wong hopes more fashion designers will open stores at the blossoming creative hub. “I’m not worrying about competition. I think there need to be more menswear outlets on the premises to create more attention and attract more visitors,” he says.
Having worked in the fashion industry for more than 20 years, and creating his first collection in 2003, Wong feels blessed to have had the chance to open his own shop at PMQ. Despite having a strong profile, opening a shop had not been a feasible option for Wong until his proposal to apply for a shop in PMQ was approved. “The rent in Hong Kong is insane. Fashion designers need a place to gather to exchange ideas and attract buyers. PMQ, which offers rent discounts to designers, is a good start. The city’s fashion industry needs more places like this.”
Wong says Hong Kong designs have a good reputation globally, but buyers here have found it difficult to shop for local designs because there is no fashion hub.
“Many international buyers are interested in the work of local designers, but when they ask me where they can go to look at local design, I don’t know how to answer them because they are separated. There has got to be a hub for designers to gather and showcase their work if there is going to be a vibrant fashion industry,” he says.
Wong says pursuing a career in fashion was an obvious choice for him. “I was deeply influence by Japanese fashion. The way people dressed on MTV also gave me a lot of inspiration,” he says.
After graduating from a local vocational institute, Wong furthered his studies in Britain at the London College of Fashion. “I did a master’s degree there. I learned a lot about design concepts and what it means to be a fashion designer,” he says.
Wong served as the design director for several brands before concentrating on his own. “I started to create my own collection and run fashion shows more than 10 years ago, but it was not until two years ago that I started to concentrate on developing my own brand. I have worked for both ladies and men’s fashion throughout my career, but menswear is what I am passionate about. Running my own business, I get to work with what I love, but it also comes with a steep learning curve. I have to look at the various aspects of a business, like marketing and business development, besides creating design,” he says.
While working for other brands, Wong developed an extensive knowledge of the fashion business. %“I have learned about the marketing aspect of fashion. Fashion retail is complicated. I study the sales figures to decide what items are hot and what are not. Items that are popular among office ladies in Central might not sell in the New Territories. There are many numbers I need to look into in order to come up with a distribution plan,” he says.
Wong’s advice to young designers is to avoid doing too much too soon. “I spent years building up my foundation in fashion design and business. Build up your knowledge in design and also learn the business side of the industry before starting a brand of your own,” he says.
Wong is looking north for further growth. %“I have many years of experience working on the mainland and I think the market there is the future. It is such a huge market it can absorb many different kinds of design, even the most unusual ones.”
He says he has seen huge changes in the mainland menswear market over the past three years. “Men no longer buy formal outfits like a three-piece suit. The concept of causal menswear has started to emerge on the mainland. People are still not sure of that they want in menswear, I think there is huge potential yet to be unearthed,” he says.
Fashion chain stores represent a major challenge for individual designers like Wong. “We can never compete with them in terms of price,” he says.
Many people will not buy a printed T-shirt from a designer when they can get cheap T-shirts from a fashion chain.
“I serve a different market; my design is for more fashion-forward consumers who are looking to stand out. The more advanced dressers are trying to develop their own style and they will turn to my products. I don’t serve the mass market – I think my style is quite unique and not suitable for everyone.”