Chinese designer Zhang Yichao (third left), who is in Perth for the Lunar Style Celebration, with models wearing her designs. Photo: Stefan Gosatti

WA in China fashion deal

Local fashion designers will have an easier route into the growing Chinese luxury market after the Fashion Council of Western Australia today signed off a five-year deal with the China Fashion Association.

Fashion Council creative director Mariella Harvey-Hanrahan said it would give the WA’s fashion players an opportunity to break onto the global stage.

“It will put our WA designers in the hands of the most influential players in the fashion industry in China and Asia,” she said.

“We wouldn’t just simply be able to go in there and do business that easily in a country that big if we didn't have this partnership.”

The agreement is being signed as part of the Fashion Council's Lunar Style Celebration this month to coincide with Chinese New Year.

China Fashion Association is the country’s peak fashion industry body, responsible for the country’s twice yearly fashion week, and Business News understands this is the first such deal between an Australian state’s fashion association and the Chinese organisation.

“(China is) the world’s leading consumer of luxury brands, but they also have creativity,” Ms Harvey-Hanrahan said.

“I’m really happy that WA has done it.”

Ae’lkemi founder Alvin Fernandez said the Chinese market had a lot of potential for local designers.

Mr Fernandez already has some strong links north, after being inducted into the Asian Couture Federation in 2014.

He also attended China Fashion Week last year, securing a couple of major department store orders in Beijing and Shanghai, and will be negotiating further deals.

“Because we’ve made everything in Australia, that still holds quite a bit of a valuable tag,” Mr Fernandez said.

“That was one of our selling points that worked really well for us.”

He said the Fashion Council’s deal would help provide designers with advice on how to do business in the market.

“It’s nice to know you've got a bit more of a support structure available for local designers,” Mr Fernandez said.

The added benefit for WA is that Chinese designers will have access to the local market, Ms Harvey-Hanrahan said, with China’s Zhang Yichao choosing Perth as her entry point into Australia with a collection included in the exhibition.

Ms Yichao owns the Chinese brand Rongchang Xiabu.

She told Business News that Chinese people were getting a better understanding of Australia, and that Perth's beauty as a coastal city had contributed to her choice.

Ms Yichao said she had learned more about how the Western fashion industry operated and how local designers ran businesses from her trip.

The two associations are also undertaking a model exchange program, sending a Perth model to China Fashion Week, and a student exchange program, Ms Harvey-Hanrahan said.

Chinese supermodel Wang Yi visited Perth as part of the exchange program and has been the face of the Lunar Style Celebration.

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