I signed up as a buyer host this year for the annual Blueprint tradeshow for independent fashion designers instead of as the media because I thought it'd be interesting to follow buyers around to see how they decide to place orders. I was attached with the founder and buyers from Hong Kong multi-label boutique, Voulez Vous - two very cute ladies - Karen Peng and Stella Tang.
On day 1:
8.40am - I arrived at Suntec City convention centre where Blueprint is held this year to wait for my buyers.
tick tock tick tock
10ish am - My buyers are finally here! I was introduced to Karen and Stella.
Stella zooms straight onto L'ile aux Ashby, a local accessory designer, having previously received his lookbook images before. The co-designer is engaged with someone else - we move on.
10.30am - Stella discovered a London based label designed by an Indonesian lady featuring loud graphic prints of animals - lions, parrots and chimpanzees dressed in royal headgear. Their dresses also featuring a mashup of colors and black tutu skirts. Karen got in talks with the designer and we find out that they customize graphic prints as well and is currently not stocked in HK yet. Stella liked the brand immediately for this loud prints and colors. "Hong Kong people like bright, loud colors and big prints," she says.
Stella also found another Hong Kong designer that specializes in "tattoo" leggings - I must say I'm also in love with their graphic print leggings, being made from a blend of nylon and spandex. It feels very smooth, breathable and luxurious. She has never heard of the Hong Kong designer's label before and seems interested to work with her. After a short chat in Cantonese, we move on.
10.50am - Stella spots New York label Dzojchen and is interested in their leather and denim spring collection. She likes the feel of the fabrics but feels that the designs may not do well in the HK market. The designer offered them a thick lookbook and line sheet of the looks. The ladies politely turned her down.
11am - Karen and Stella goes over to RougeRouge, a Bangkok designer offered quirky leather clutches and small bags. Stella loves the designs and gets Karen to take photos of her carrying their Salvador Dali inspired eye clutch bag, book clutches and mustache clutch.
For the rest of the day, Stella and Karen pretty much work very fast - talking to designers whom they feel would be suitable for the Hong Kong market. The rest of the designers they spoke to were Mae Pang, Juma, Unbounded Awe (for their cute graphic socks), Vice & Vanity and Nikicio. They are mostly interested in stocking loud and chunky accessories such as those from Vice & Vanity, and also graphic prints/digitally manipulated loud prints for clothes.
I've learnt that in HK, there are a lot of small multi-label boutiques like theirs so Stella is keen on keeping the collections she orders exclusive to Causeway Bay (where her boutique is located) and the Central area. Nobody likes seeing other people stocking the same stuff they spent time curating and selecting. Approaching a brand involves talking about their delivery mode (consignment, drop shipment?), duration of lead time, line sheets, minimum order quantity if any, counter samples and also wholesale and recommended retail pricing.
We were done with the tradeshow by just over 1pm, so in short, the buyers took only roughly 3 hours for the tradeshow of over 100 brands. Some of the brands were good but they were just not suitable for their HK clientele so we didn't even approach those brands. This experience definitely strengthened my wanting to be a buyer! It's such a niche market in the sense that it requires you to be good at both numbers and people - building relationships with designers and suppliers, and also negotiating the best prices for yourself.
Hope this post is useful for anyone who's interested in being a buyer.