Textile-group scion Edith Law is using her Fashion Farm Foundation to put Hong Kong’s designers on the world map
Local designers have always been hampered by the fact that Hong Kong lacks both affordable studio space and a channel for them to promote their products. Edith Law, chairwoman of non-profit organisation Fashion Farm Foundation (FFF) and owner of fashion brands Bread n Butter and Ztampz, hopes that the foundation can ensure a bright future for the local design industry by helping designers spread their ideas.
The granddaughter of Law Ting-pong, an entrepreneur who founded textile business the Laws Group, Law hopes to make use of her experience as a businesswoman to enhance local fashion culture.
Banking was Law’s first career, but eventually an entrepreneurial spirit got the better of her. “When I was a banker, I spent most of my time working on business models, but I wanted to get more involved with the frontline operation of a business,” she says. “Taking advantage of my family’s textile business, I established Bread n Butter and Ztampz with my sister Victoria, who comes from a fashion-design education background.”
Law’s banking experience helped her develop a sharp market sense. “I saw a gap in the market for affordable ladies’ fashions, so I decided to target that segment of the market. I started the brands in 2003 and, apart from some snags during the 2008 financial crisis, the business has since been growing steadily. I think I am ready to make more of a contribution to the fashion industry,” she says.
Law founded FFF in 2012. “I spent time in New York, one of the fashion capitals of the world. I learned that the New York administration has different kinds of funds and incubation projects to help fashion designers establish themselves. When I look at Hong Kong, I see a lot of talent among local designers, but they lack assistance from the authorities to help them make it on the world stage. Like New York, Hong Kong is a financial centre and it should also be a fashion hub, because it is an exciting cosmopolitan place that attracts interesting people from around the world,” she says.
Law believes that a lack of support from the government has stunted the growth of local fashion. She points out that the shortage of affordable studio space, the lack of a communication platform and insufficient sales channels are the three main challenges that local designers face. One of the things she has done to help is revamp the design of one of her family’s old industrial buildings – D2 Place in Lai Chi Kok – to provide low-rent work space for designers. “I think the space is more than a place to work – it is a platform for designers to exchange ideas and look for opportunities to collaborate,” she says.
Competition for studio space is keen and Law hopes to allocate resources to the people most in need. “We have various choices for designers who are at different stages of their careers. The more established ones, who have their own collections, can apply for a studio of their own. I advise those less experienced who are trying to start up their own brand to apply for co-working space,” she says.
To help focus attention on Hong Kong designs, Law has devised creative marketing ideas. “FFF’s first project was the Five Dun Five fashion installation exhibition. We modified 5.5-tonne trucks into exhibition areas. Such an unconventional presentation not only gave fashion designers a confidence boost, it also affirmed the abundant creativity and immense design potential in Hong Kong,” she says.
Law believes that to gain attention, Hong Kong fashion must go global. To help achieve this aim, she ran “Fashion Guerilla” projects in Paris and Tokyo to showcase local designs to the world. “By splashing the unique chic of Hong Kong design in two of the world’s most prominent style meccas, we put local fashion on the world stage. The result is not just acclamation from industry peers worldwide, but also a vital opportunity for designers to realise their dream of face-to-face exchange with fashion buyers, brands and media representatives from around the world,” she says.
Law later created the Fashion Forward Festival in December 2013 to link designers with buyers from around the world. The festival helped create a fashion-culture experience for visitors. “Making use of the rooftop facilities, we hosted fashion shows, workshops, seminars, installation art and music performances, giving visitors a fashion experience rather than showing them products,” she says. “Fashion design is a true reflection of the integration of daily life. The details of life offer constant inspiration for fashion. The festival offered a platform for different sectors of fashion to display and exchange ideas. Buyers, distributors, and agents from around the world can look at the creative idea of local designers, opening channels for co-operation in the future.”
Law enjoyment in observing customers’ behaviour is a key to the success of her brands. The festival taught her that an increasing number of customers are seeking products that are one of a kind. “Popular fashion will always attract attention, but I can see more customers trying to develop their own style. Festival visitors are certainly the ones who want to stand out from the crowd, and I see this as a gap in the market that our designers can serve,” she says.
She says that so far the work of FFF has been encouraging and her ultimate goal is to integrate fashion into Hong Kong culture. “I hope the efforts of FFF can raise awareness of local fashion and gain the support of Hong Kong people,” she says. “Hong Kong has never been known as a fashion capital. FFF can teach people to start appreciating fashion, and this may change the industry’s future.”
FLYING THE COLOURS FOR FLAIR AND INNOVATION
Edith Law explains why local fashion should be supported
Global crossroads “Hong Kong is where East meets West – it has huge potential as a global fashion hub.”
Local heroes “Design talent is not only found overseas. Hong Kong is perfectly capable of offering its own fashion designs and staying at the forefront through innovation.”
Untapped potential “Local designers have their own unique style and potential waiting to be discovered.”
Fruits of labour “The hard work put in on every garment is worthy of our respect and appreciation.”