updated 21 Oct 2011, 12:56
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Thu, Oct 20, 2011
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S'pore designers carve niche to beat big brands
by Sarah Chang

SINGAPORE designers are giving international fashion labels here a run for their money by plugging the gaps they cannot fill.

Mr David Wang, chairman of designers and retailers of the Textile ad Fashion Training Academy, said that designers here still have a niche market they can tap into.

He said that designers here have a "home-ground advantage" as they are able to cater their pieces to festivities celebrated here.

Mr Wang cited the example of the Nation Pride T-shirts that designers under Parco next Next, a fashion-design incubator project, come up with annually for National Day.

He said: "Catering designs specifically to Singaporeans can even help cultivate customer loyalty - which is a dying sentiment here."

Industry observers have called for local designers and Asian fashion houses to gear up for tough months ahead.

They warned that unless they are able to find new ways to attract and retain customers, the impact will be felt more directly.

This comes after the much hyped entry of major high-street brands such as Swedish retail line H&M and American casual-wear brand Aeropostale over the last month.

Another big brand, Abercrombie and Fitch, which has made waves here with a controversial ad even before its arrival, is set to open next month.

But local designers whom my paper spoke to said that they are sizing their competitors up and finding their way around them.

The owner of local label, young&restless, Ms Rachel Lim, 32, said the deal-breaker is in offering personalised services. Her brand offers made-to-measure pieces for customers who are unable to fit into mainstream sizes. She said that these services give her label a "crucial edge" over bigger brands, with customers taking up such services making up more than 15 per cent of her clientele.

Like her, designer Priscilla Tan, 25, of local label

Chalk, competes with established brands by going the extra mile for her customers. She provides custom-made dresses for young girls whose mothers want matching outfits.

While Ms Tan offers this service only as a favour to some regulars, she said that it is an "added incentive, to build a close relationship with a customer".

But designer Pauline Lim, 25, believes in letting the clothes speak for themselves. She said that she maintains the quality of her pieces by sourcing materials from Italy and Japan and employing only home-grown tailors to make the clothes.

"There are many flocking to high-street brands for their low prices. We may not be as affordable as the high-street brands, but we offer something different.

"There is certainly a difference in quality. People will notice this over time," said Ms Lim.

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