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Mon, May 30, 2011
The Business Times
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Winning Blueprint
by Melissa Lwee

IF last year's Blueprint - the trade show element under Asia Fashion Exchange - was a debut draft, this year's version was of much stronger design.

Held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre Hall B on May 19 and 20 (followed by a two-day shopping affair called Blueprint Emporium which was open to the public), the event, presented by Lee Hwa Jewellery, featured about twice as many designers - 100 international and Asian names compared to last year's 56. It also had a sharper focus, showcasing solely Cruise collections, the light "inter-season" collection that's meant for warmer weather.

Some 2011 highlights included the designs of Jackie JS Lee, a recipient of the prestigious British Fashion Council's New Gen sponsored by TopShop initiative; Timo Weiland from New York; and cult British favourite KTZ. Local stalwarts in the form of Raoul, Ashley Isham and Wykidd Song also figured.

For all that, the organisers were rewarded with the presence of more than 200 fashion buyers who turned up over the course of the two days. A number of top international fashion bloggers were also spotted, including Susanna Lau from the popular blog Style Bubble, Steve Salter from Style Savage, Phil Oh from Street Peeper and Sasha Wilkins from Liberty London Girl.

Although the organisers have not released any official figures yet, the success of the event was evident from the get-go, with some labels such as KTZ pulling in sales as early as the first morning.


"Last year, we took a gamble and took part in Audi Fashion Festival and Blueprint, even though not many people knew about our brand in Singapore," says KTZ's co-founder Sasha Besovki.

"But it was great and we made sales, so we decided to come back this year again as we felt it was important to follow up on the progress that we made last year. And the response has been great. We've been selling since the morning of May 19!"

By the time the trade show drew to a close, at least 30 per cent of the brands had taken orders, and another 40 per cent are likely to do so in the next few weeks, pending follow-ups and confirmations.

According to Blueprint's director Cat Ong, the top performing brands this year - each garnering "more than a handful of on-the-spot orders" - were diverse.

They ranged from Seventy Eight Percent bags from Hong Kong and SOMEARETHIEVES shoes from Jakarta, to Ruby Kobo and Shashi jewellery from New York, Belle Sauvage ready-to-wear from London and Mae Pang womenswear from Singapore.

Other local brands also did well, appealing to a wide cross-section of international stores from the new Le Mill in Mumbai to the cult Triple-Major in Beijing and Oki-ni in Britain. Avant-garde label Depression, for one, was picked up by DEEPLAY from Taiwan and Triple-Major from Beijing); while bag brand Ling Wu was picked up by Hong Kong's Shine, Perth's S2, and Seoul's J. Roseroco New York. Meanwhile, more established brands such as Raoul capitalised on the event by making new contacts with both the media and stores.

Clearly, Blueprint 2011 is doing what it set out to do - that is, be a platform for both young and established labels to connect with buyers and gain publicity. And the designers say as much.

Shares the founder of jewellery label Carrie K, Carolyn Kan, who is in talks with more than 15 potential stockists following the event: "Blueprint is the must-have starter kit for all designers. It fast-tracked connecting me with the international media, the right buyers, and learning how to make your brand ready to take on the world. It exceeded my expectations in every aspect."

Singaporean designer Mae Pang, who secured two more local stockists (ActuallyActually and Hide & Seek) during Blueprint and is now in talks with several overseas stores, agrees:

"Blueprint has definitely opened up many windows of opportunity for my label. It has allowed us to present our works to some of our dream stores and get acquainted with their owners and buyers directly. The takeaway from this whole experience is intangibly large and we are extremely encouraged by the positive feedback we received."

According to Joy Yaffe, Blueprint's international branding consultant, the international designers were just as pleased with the results this year. "Blueprint 2011 fulfilled and, I believe, exceeded the expectations of all who attended," she says.

"The designers I brought to the event were Timo Weiland, Ruby Kobo, Jatalika and Jackie JS Lee. They're all young designers who are up-and-coming and otherwise wouldn't have the financial means to meet key buyers and media from Asia, the Middle East and all of the countries that were present at Blueprint 2011. They received an overwhelming reception and were all delighted with the stores they have made contact with and who placed orders."

All in, it looks like the event is on the right track to establishing itself as a staple on the international fashion calendar. "One comment heard throughout Blueprint was that buyers all over the world are now desperately seeking new hunting grounds to source for unique merchandise," says Ms Ong.

"And 2011 marks the year that our little international fashion trade fair in Singapore stepped up to the mark of meeting that need."

Ms Yaffe is on the same page.

"Blueprint is establishing itself as an international player," she says. "All the designers, buyers and international media who were hosted enjoyed the event, and left Singapore wanting to return. They had smiles on their faces as I personally bid them goodbye."

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This article was first published in The Business Times.

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