The COVID-19 pandemic, which began as a health crisis, has rapidly evolved into a global economic crisis at a magnitude that most has never experienced in their lifetime.
Many industries, especially retailers, are facing foreclosures and are forced to fold their businesses even as their countries gradually lift lockdowns.
The pandemic has accelerated digitalisation and changed consumer behaviours. While some businesses are lost in translation, many more will become obsolete.
The fashion industry, a major brick and mortar retail business, is one of the hardest hit, said the Council of ASEAN Fashion Designers (CAFD) in a statement.
No brands, designers and even mass-produced apparel makers are spared. It is thus time for the industry to finally reset its business landscape to be sustainable.
The fall of major retailers is an opportunity for the rise of independent fashion designed. As such, the CAFD has been established with the mission to democratise the fashion industry and level the playing field for ASEAN designers, so they can embark on the global marketplace and thrive in the competitive fashion industry.
The CAFD has been encouraging ASEAN fashion designers to carve a niche for themselves by being true artisan designers that focus on tailored clothes and high-quality materials while staying progressive on innovative technologies and digital marketing strategies with a direct-to-consumer distribution model.
Every ASEAN country, from the Philippines to Indonesia, has put significant effort to promote their talents. However, after decades, progress has been limited, and to the rest of the world, most ASEAN fashion designers are still categorised as emerging talents as they are little known outside their countries.
CAFD Honorary Chairman Kenn Yam said, “For decades, the fashion industry is dictated by traditional and conventional methods to market and promote.
“The advancement of e-commerce and growing environmentally responsible consumers has changed buying behaviours.
“However, there is a perception gap between most ASEAN designers and global consumers in product, price, promotion and place of distribution. This is what the CAFD is going to do as an ASEAN organisation, to help independent designers to sell in today’s global marketplace.”
Yam said the pandemic has hit the reset button, and it is now more crucial for every fashion designer to ensure his or her business remains sustainable.
The CAFD recently anointed a new committee, comprising leading entrepreneurs and professionals in technology, fashion, media and entertainment fields, to support designers under the council.
“Each committee member brings along a rich network of business and marketing resources to guide and assist fashion designers” in navigating the global industry, he said.
CAFD President Trang Le, owner and co-founder of Vietnam International Fashion Week, one of ASEAN’s largest fashion events, owns the rights to the Next Top Model and Project Runway for Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, CAFD Vice Presidents Tri Dao Phuc and Daren Choy are CEO of Yeah-One TV Network in Vietnam and Managing Director of Warner Music Group Malaysia, and will bring their experience and resources in social marketing and celebrity networks to promote CAFD members.
Tan Yee Boon, corporate advocate specialising in company listings, is CAFD Secretary, while Datuk Idris Mohd Esa, former Bank Rakyat and Ambank Director, is the council’s treasurer.
In addition, the council also has ASEAN country counsellors, who are influential individuals that can inspire their country’s fashion designers to be globally competitive: Johan Johar, Investment Manager at Darussalam Assets Sdn Bhd who sits on the board of several government-linked companies, is Brunei’s counsellor; Bon Zainal, President of Malaysian Bumiputera Designers Association is Malaysia’s Counsellor; and Remy Hou, renowned Cambodian fashion designer who has dressed Katy Perry and Justin Bieber, is Cambodia’s counsellor.
The council has also acknowledged China being the world’s largest consumer market for fashion and has thus appointed Chenguang Liu as CAFD China Advisor to ensure the members are prepared for the challenging yet rewarding market.