If one were asked to think about high fashion, Paris would probably spring to mind. Forgetting Paris, Milan and London might pop up too; Asia is definitely one of the less-thought-about places in comparison. Frank Cintamani, the man who brought haute couture to Asia, rightly stated that most people can’t name more than five Asian designers. As an Asian, this opinion actually comes as little surprise. While I can probably name more than five, I certainly know fewer Asian designers than I know Western ones. It’s not because I’m not interested in Asian fashion or think that Asian fashion designers are less important, it has more to do with the fact that Asian designers tend to get less global media coverage, and what you don’t see or hear about, you tend to not think about. I started to wonder why this way and tried to think up of satisfactory answers.
Fashion as an industry is largely concentrated in the West - Europe namely - where the influential people in the industry live, work and tend to find their daily inspirations. European culture evidently has more significant roots in high fashion. I mean, in the mid-19th Century haute couture originated in Paris; Paris was once the centre of the fashion. Arguably, it still is, but Parisian fashion no longer commands or dictates the way it used to. The influence it has however is still significant: it has the influence on fashion (designers are always inspired by Paris, its culture and history) and influence on the world through its image (people go to Paris to shop as well as to see its fashion shows).
Cities like New York and London have emerged in recent years too as increasing numbers of people from all over the world there to purchase the latest fashions and attend the fashion weeks that take place there. New York and London are the nursing grounds for young talent and are where the top design colleges like Parsons School of Design and Central Saint Martins are. So what about Asia?
Asia's South East region is really picking up the pace with worldwide fashion today. It is home to a fairly large amount of designers and houses. China is set to account for 30 per cent of the global fashion market’s growth over the next 2 – 3 years. The Asia-Pacific retail market will be worth 11.8 trillion USD in 2016 according to forecasts. Swarms of international buyers and press are attracted to Asia's hotter climes each year for its fashion weeks (Singapore holds Audi Fashion Festival while Bangkok has Elle Fashion Week, for example).
The South East region of Asia generally has a stable and growing economy and more importantly, an increasing number of people interested in fashion. Fashion as a creative industry is slowly gaining strength. One only has to superficially look at the growing numbers of shopping malls in the region and the increasing number of fashion brands and events held to understand this fact.
While Asia is currently recognised as a large and still-growing market for fashion purchasing and manufacture, it is not so for design. The day it is recognized as a premier destination for design as well as for purchasing power is when Asia can well and truly be called a major destination for fashion.