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SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Well aware that to get from the runway to the retail store takes more than fashionistas, Singapore is launching a trade fashion show this month intended to parade Asia's designers before international fashion buyers.
Dubbed Blueprint, organizers say they want the 4-day event to become the basis of the Asian Fashion Exchange (AFX), the region's answer to New York or Milan's fashion weeks.
The event is modeled on Berlin's "Bread and Butter" industry fair, and will start out with 50 designers, mainly from Asia but with some U.S. and British labels as well. There will also be an opportunity for the public to shop.
Some 60 buyers from all over the world, including British department stores Harrod's and Liberty, are set to attend, but organizers say it's early days yet to realize their ambitions.
"Asia has much potential as a market for the fashion industry and with its growing pool of talent, there is potential in developing a premier fashion initiative for Singapore and the region," said Andrew Phua of the government's tourism board, a main sponsor of the event.
"We recognize that as a new brand, the AFX will take time to grow and root itself in the minds of fashion professionals, but we hope that it will quickly step up to fill a current gap in the industry and become a fashion exchange hub for the region."
Shopping is often called the national pastime in affluent Singapore, a city-state of some 5 million people that, as the rest of the world slowly shakes off the global economic crisis, has been attracting luxury retails in droves.
French jeweller to royalty and the stars, Chaumet, opened its first Southeast Asian outlet in Singapore last week, adding to a long list of international names including Burberry, Giorgio Armani, Harry Winston, Prada and Louis Vuitton.
From a retailing point of view, Singapore's got, and attracts, more than enough local and Asian shoppers willing to spend on luxury goods, a statistic fitting the country with the world's highest density of millionaires which is positioning itself as a center for luxury living.
Singapore holds an annual fashion festival, which last year featured several major international labels, but now, the government has decided that the time has come to really turn the country into Asia's fashion capital for the world.
"By bringing the best of Asian fashion designers under one roof, we hope to raise the profile of Singapore designers in the region and beyond," said Tan Soon Kim of International Enterprise Singapore.
"It is precisely because Singapore is not known yet as a fashion capital that there is a need for Blueprint. While there are other fashion festivals in Asia, Blueprint has a more international outlook."
While luxury goods have yet to come back in vogue with the economic recovery still fragile, organizers see the AFX as a long-term initiative and designers said it was never too early to get brand exposure.
"We're already very well known on our homeground Thailand, but we want to reach out to an international audience. Those attending Blueprint will help heighten our brand exposure on a global level, which will ultimately, increase sales," said Roj Singhakul, founder and designer of Thai label ISSUE.
Singaporean designer Wykidd Song, who made his mark on the international market in the 1990s with label "Song and Kelly" with partner Ann Kelly, also said it's high time Asian designers got a platform to showcase to the world.
"Singapore is not Tokyo, we're not the United States, but we have to try and do what we can. We want to be held up to international scrutiny, to gain the knowledge of what works and what doesn't," he said.
"We need a sales pitch. That's what Blueprint is."
Editing by Sugita Katyal