updated 28 Jul 2012, 14:08
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Mon, May 21, 2012
The Business Times
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Click and wear
by Audrey Tan and Rachel Au-Yong

Audi Fashion Festival 2012

Fashionistas take note.

Runway fashion is just about to get more accessible.

Forget about waiting months for new designer pieces to hit the stores.

This year, the Audi Fashion Festival (AFF) is launching a new initiative that will shorten the time and distance between catwalk and your wardrobe.

Future Fashion Now (FFN) is a portal where fashion shows are streamed live to viewers.

The twist is that customers can buy the runway pieces they fancy with just a click of the mouse or a touch on their iPads.

At fashion weeks, the selection that ends up in stores usually depends on what fashion buyers pick.

This means that out of a full collection, only select pieces would be made available to everyone.

But with FFN, anyone with Internet access can be a buyer and shop off the runways.

This is the first time in Asia that a portal will be taking pre-orders while the show is actually going on.

It is expected to reach more than 500,000 viewers in 91 countries.

The portal will be open for one month until June 19 for customers to place their orders.

According to AFF producer Jeremy Tan, it would take between six weeks and four months for the order to reach the customers.

Despite the wait, customers will still get the pieces before stocks hit the stores, he assured.

"Consumers currently do not have access to the full, unedited collection as presented by designers to buyers at fashion weeks and trade shows," said Tjin Lee, managing director of FFN.

She added: "We hope to bridge consumers and the rising designers of tomorrow as well as support the budding fashion industry in our region."

The portal went live on Thursday evening, and the first show featured three budding designers - Esther Perbandt, Timo Weiland and Yeojin Bae who hail from Berlin, New York and Melbourne respectively.

It seems that FFN is already favoured by these designers.

All three share the same hope that the portal would help bring about an increase in the number of orders.

"After all, this is a risk-free venture (for the designers) - they don't need to produce a whole collection before the consignment reaches the stores," said Mr Tan.

Designer Esther Perbandt, 37, says she hopes to produce about three times as many pieces as she would normally do for stores.

"Usually I produce between 500 and 1,000 pieces," she said.

"I don't want to jinx it, but hopefully I'd be able to produce about 3,000 pieces with FFN."

For her namesake label, prices range from about $500 for a top to as much as $2,000 for a dress.

But for items which require more painstaking work to create, the price is much higher, Perbandt said.

For example, the designer's favourite piece - a vest made of wood panels with gold chain details - took her 40 hours to create.

The cost? About $5,000.

"I set the price higher so not many people would order it," she said.

"But for those who do, at least, it would justify the amount of time I spend on it."

Timo Weiland, who is a big hit among New Yorkers, also hopes to produce at least 30 per cent more than he would for stores and wholesale orders.

On average, the 29-year-old produces between 15 and 500 pieces of a particular style - depending on price, design and saleability.

For the launch of his latest archaeology-inspired collection, he has modified the designs slightly to appeal to the Asian crowd.

"I made my designs smaller, with more options for covering up," he said.

For his label, prices range between $100 for separates and $1,500 for dresses.

Yeojin Bae, 37, who debuted her second, more contemporary line YB J'aime on Thursday, said the pieces from this label will cost 40 per cent less than her main one, Yeojin Bae.

They will be priced around the $300 range.

"I like that we can let the public be the buyer, and not have the colours of a piece get edited by a shop. Now I can see what style will get the maximum reaction," she said.

"It's a nice way to get direct feedback from the customers."

FFN is featuring 14 designers this season, although Ms Lee hopes to grow that figure to 25 by October, when the next season starts.

But while designers want to sell more pieces, would the value of a designer item be diminished?

"It won't decrease exclusivity nor challenge brick-and-mortar shops," Ms Lee said.

"Many of these designers aren't even available in the region."

But while online shopping has taken Singapore by storm, customers are still hesitant about shelling out large sums of money for designer items online.

"It's a cool idea, but not mind-blowing," said magazine editor Sueann Chong, 26.

"After all, we're not talking about blogshops but designer labels that cost more."

Claudia Low, 25, agreed.

The fashion editor said: "I'd prefer to see how the clothes fall on me, look at the colours in different lighting, feel the fabric."

Yet others are keen to try out the new portal.

"I am going to buy these pieces, but I've got to go home and measure myself to determine my size," said banker Rani Rull, who was browsing the collections from an AFF-issued iPad during the show.

Samuel Lee, also a banker, agreed: "I would have bought something if there was a men's collection here."

When asked about public reception to the portal, organisers were hopeful. The site garnered about 10 orders after Thursday's shows.

"We have more than 10,000 likes on our Facebook page, and we expect at least 70 per cent to turn up," Mr Tan said.

"But we don't have a KPI (key performance indicator) mindset. More importantly, we are here to help our designers," he added.

Ms Lee agreed.

"Young designers are often cash-strapped as fashion is very expensive. FFN helps them out, is zero-risk and also helps them get feedback from their customers," she said.

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This article was first published in The Business Times.

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