Streetwear trend gives way for more tailoring, says Joyce merchandising head

In a metropolis notorious for streets lined with luxury flagship stores, Joyce has set itself apart as a select high fashion destination. The Hong Kong multi-brand boutique has also opened two stores in Shanghai and Beijing. FashionUnited spoke to Michael Mok, General Merchandise Manager of Joyce, who scouts talent around the world and introduced labels such as Thom Browne, JW Anderson and Vetements to Hong Kong. At fashion fair, Centrestage, he shared his view on trends, future expansion plans for Joyce, budding fashion talents from Hong Kong and mainland China, as well as why buying for its stores in both locations differs so much.

How would you describe Hong Kong's local fashion scene in a few words?

Michael Mok: New, upcoming, potential, exciting.

Which are the most interesting brands to watch here?

There are a few local brands that are quite interesting. There is a brand called Jourden, which was presented on the runway of Paris Fashion Week last year already. She is quite a good, established womenswear designer. If you want funky collections, look at ‘Ground Zero’. There is also a menswear label called ‘The World is Your Oyster’ that is quite interesting. The good thing for them is that production is quite close to China, so they can really control the price.

Hover over the image to discover more about the capsule collection by Arto Wong for Joyce. She won the Hong Kong Designer's Contest 2017 with her avantgarde take on knitwear.

Streetwear trend gives way for more tailoring, says Joyce merchandising head

On a more international stage, which brands are worth watching, in your view?

We just finished the menswear market. We picked up the menswear brand Botter, which is now the creative director of Nina Ricci. We picked it even before that happened and when we came back from fashion week, we just realised it was appointed. Also, Stefan Cooke is one of the London designers that is quite interesting, as well as Charles Jeffrey. On the womenswear side, we took up Marine Serre last season and it’s still doing quite well. In every country, we’re trying to find new brands from new talents that can really represent the country.

Which trends do you see for the next season?

The streetwear trend is everywhere at the moment. I think people will try to stay away from streetwear for a little bit and become slightly more formal and dressed-up. I know streetwear is still a key trend in most of the commercial market but designer-wise, they’re trying to stay away from streetwear and be a bit more sophisticated and upscale now, with more of a focus on tailoring. On the men’s side, they still wear oversized shirts but with tight jeans and even leather shoes to make it more formal.

What sets Joyce’s collections apart from competitors, and how is the collection built up?

The identity of Joyce is all about the design of our brands and products. We usually select brands focused on creativity and craftsmanship. Before we go to the showroom, we will set a theme for the season and think about what we’re going to buy and what we’re going to focus on. When you come to our shop you can clearly identify the collections’ seasonal trends through our eyes. It’s different from other retailers, who may focus more on buying commercial items and pieces that are easy to sell. For us we’re buying a theme; telling a story.

How many new brands are you looking for per season?

Normally, we will allocate 10 to 15 percent of our buy to new brands. So usually 10 to 15 brands. When we don’t spot many interesting labels, it could also be 5.

Are there differences in how you procure for Joyce in Hong Kong and mainland China stores?

The Chinese market is quite different from Hong Kong. Customers really react to social media or ‘KOLs’ [Note: short for ‘Key Opinion Leaders’- a person with numerous followers and influence on social media, also called ‘influencer’ ]. Our buy in China also targets younger customers than in Hong Kong. Our brand mix in China will be younger and more contemporary and also include some new generation designers because customers are more open-minded. Some Shanghai customers are always looking for new designers, because the market there is quite saturated now.

What do you mean by saturated?

There are a few multi-label stores that are quite strong and constantly bringing new labels. For us, we focus on the strongest new brands and bring them first to Shanghai.

Which strong designers do you see in mainland China?

In mainland China, we’re actually working with Labelhood [Note: a platform showcasing young designers during Shanghai Fashion Week]. We have a pop-up shop with them in Beijing. They introduce a lot of new Chinese designers. For us, we bought into Samuel Gui Yang - that’s a new Chinese designer. Also Laurence & Chico, who just did a fashion show in New York, and also Angel Chen.

How has the profession of a buyer changed since you started?

As a buyer in menswear when I started ten years ago, there was less social media. There was less competition. Now the big competitors are online. How we compete with online is crucial for our next generation of buyers. How can our selection differ from an online shop? Newness and selection are key for us. How can we make sure our customers shop in a brick-and-mortar store? Service, product, and styling suggestions are quite important. Even for a buyer, these things are quite important nowadays. Buying procedures stayed more or less the same, it’s just the outside factors that make a buyer’s job harder. Some customers may come to us looking for items that have been heavily promoted on social media, but in order to boost the uniqueness of the shop, we need to bring something new to the customer.

How do you instruct your buyers to find the most interesting brands?

They have to have an open mind. Whether the products are from a small city at a low price point or a luxury couture product, they need to think outside their comfort zone, they shouldn’t jump to conclusions right away. It’s also good to talk to customers for inspiration.

Do you have any future plans for Joyce?

Digital online business is our next major step for Joyce. Some products we’re selling are quite exclusive to us and are only available in the brick-and-mortar store now - a lot of customers are requesting them. We will expand more in China. We’re looking at Chengdu and other cities to open more stores.

Photos: FashionUnited & Joyce

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