Hong Kong Fashion Week Downsizes Amid U.S. Tariff Tiff

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HONG KONG—Hong Kong Fashion Week had a subdued air this year as U.S. buyers have become more cautious about placing orders with Chinese factories, which make up the bulk of the exhibitors.

That also was reflected in the number of companies participating in the Fall/Winter 2019 trade-show event and fashion fair, which ran Jan. 14–17 in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. This year, there were only 1,400 booths from 11 countries, which is the same as last year but down from the 1,515 booths at the show two years ago. The usual contingent of about 25 Indian companies that usually exhibit at the show did not participate this year because their guild grant to attend the show didn’t arrive in time.

While U.S. buyers were not as abundant as in the past, there were a number of attendees from Europe, Indonesia and Australia who roamed one vast hall filled with sparkling evening gowns, scads of sweaters, beaded handbags, rows of denim and pint-sized clothing for children. In past years, the trade show has filled two large halls.

Benjamin Chau, the deputy executive director of show organizer Hong Kong Trade Development Council, noted exhibitors were facing uncertainties from the ongoing trade conflict between the United States and China, as well as rapid changes in sourcing and retail models.

Recently, the U.S. imposed a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion in Chinese imports and has threatened to expand that by another $257 billion, which would include almost everything imported from China. He urged clothing companies to grasp the opportunities presented by emerging-market buyers and stay competitive by improving design quality.

Laurence Leung, chairman of the Garment Advisory Committee of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, and other officials acknowledged that U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods is affecting buyers’ confidence levels in placing orders with Chinese factories. “Right now they may be equally balanced in sourcing from Vietnam and China,” Leung said. “But this is becoming a no-brainer. They must be out of China. On the good side, the Chinese currency has depreciated more than 7 percent in the last year. So that helps.”

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