The great Asian leap: Outsourcing to couture

Karishma Patel 6 February 2014

Outsourcing for apparel is the oldest trick in the book. Despite the fact that is has long since been believed to tarnish brand quality, retailers have continuously looked to the East for fabrication over several decades now. The price simply can’t be beaten.

With cheaper labour, a lower tax bracket, homegrown textiles and loosely guarded human-right laws, mass-market retailers like H&M and Zara can reduce the prices of their products and maintain a large profit margin. On the opposite end of the spectrum, high-end fashion houses occasionally outsource production of their ready to wear lines in an attempt to offset their costly couture collections, which are primarily aimed at the one percenters and are essentially a sinking ship when it comes to revenue. Combined, the supply chain in Asia for apparel has been well developed across the industry.

What happens next is the real Cinderella story. When outsourcing to Asia becomes beneficial to both parties and unwittingly leads to the foundation of high fashion in the Orient, a beautiful collection of East-meets- West is born. 2013 marked the year of emergence for Asian fashion houses. From Mumbai’s House of Masaba with their pop art inspired sarees to Korean Sulwhasoo that uses native botanicals and medicinal herbs in its renowned make-up line, the world went wild for these products. The East seems to bring their own flavour into the global high-end market, paying homage to their individual heritage and cultural traditions.

Much of this path from factory to fashion has been paved by luxury fashion brand NE Tiger. It is China’s first haute couture designer with a signature ethnically inspired look. At 2012’s Milan fashion week, company founder Zhang Zhifeng gave a speech entitled ‘From China, to the World’. In so many ways the company has given us the gift of insight into ancient Chinese traditions, while welcoming the future with creative expression.

Zhifeng’s speech was reminiscent of one made by Counselor Yang Shen during last weekend’s CSSA Chinese New Year’s Gala in which he expressed the growing bond between China and the Western world. He indicated that we are now at a point of mutual respect and seek to share our cultures with one another for harmonious growth.

China along with many other Asian countries has made the graceful leap from mass producer to artiste when it comes to fashion and beauty. The coming years are guaranteed to show a rise of Eastern high-end designers that are going to be haute, haute, haute.