Gov’t subsidy encourages local designers to pursue ambitions in the industry

Akina Lei

The collections of two local designers, Akina Lei and San Lee, are currently being showcased at the Macau Fashion Gallery. The exhibition is part of the final phase of the “Brand Story – Macau Original Fashion Exhibition”, which will end on October 1.

Lei – who is also a personal image consultant, stylist to local artists and art and image director –  entered the fashion industry in 2009 and launched her brand “Salut, ça va?”

“I haven’t used my name to name my brand because I want ‘Salut, ça va?’ to represent their own kind of style, and not only me,” Lei said.

Lee broke into the fashion industry shortly after in 2010, launching his brand “Zics Design.” He also works as an interior designer.

San Lee

According to both designers, the fashion industry in the region has undergone massive changes, citing the increasing support of the government and the growing number of aspiring young designers.

Although the two designers do not own pop-up stores, they currently retail their products online through social media platforms.

Despite the growing number of local designers, both Lei and Lee said that they do not see other designers as competitors as they all receive support from the same entities.

“We don’t consider other brands as competitors, we’re all friends in the industry and we all share our experience and resources with each other. Sometimes we join together [for] some exhibitions or some trade shows,” said Lee.

Echoing the same sentiments, Lei noted that all local designers have different signature styles, keeping the competition healthy.

The designers have previously said that it was far more challenging several years ago. They received little support from public entities, and faced difficulties acquiring funding and sponsorship.

According to them, funding for local designers only became available a few years ago, making it easier for newcomers to enter the market.

The two designers also showcased their collections at the Centerstage Hong Kong earlier this month, an event which welcomed professional buyers from across the region.

The event was the first time either designer had participated in such an exhibition, which provided them opportunities to reach clients outside Hong Kong and Macau.

“We had more chances to [get to] know some overseas buyers. [The organizers] will [introduce us to] professional and interesting buyers [for] a small meeting… and we can tell them our story and our designs to let them know more about local designers,” Lei shared.

Lee also observed that local designers are eager to join the industry despite Macau’s small market, adding that “fashionable items” in the city are increasing.

Lee noted that the continuous support of the local government through the Macau Productivity and Technology Transfer Center (CPTTM) encourages younger designers to remain in the industry.

“[The government] has some projects where you can apply to get some funding to start your career. They also organize some events so we can go overseas because we cannot only rely on the local market. We all need to extend our brand outside Macau,” said Lee.

Through an open call and selections made by an adjudicating panel, six local designers were selected to participate in the “Brand Story – Macau Original Fashion Exhibition.”

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