RTT Exclusive: Interview with the people behind AFX

RockTheTrend.com has scored the opportunity to interview the three women behind Asia Fashion Exchange (AFX), which held a press conference recently at LASALLE. AFX is an annual event in Singapore that usually happens in May and aims to position the country as Asia’s leading fashion hub. It comprises of four key pillar events (Audi Fashion Festival, Blueprint, Star Creation & Asia Fashion Summit).

Tjin Lee is the director of Mercury Marketing & Communications which organizes AFX, Joyce O’Dwyer is the AFX Project Director and Ong Soh Chin is the AFX PR Director.

Here we go:

1. What inspired you to create AFX?
Tjin: We didn’t create AFX. AFX came about after the Singapore Tourism Board conducted an extensive study of the fashion industry in Singapore, examining what it would take to establish and nurture all aspects of it in a cohesive and holistic manner. Extensive interviews were conducted with industry players, from retailers to designers and suppliers, to assess their needs and how to address them so that the entire industry can grow together in a cooperative and mutually beneficial manner.

2. Why is there a need for AFX?
Joyce: The AFX is a significant platform as it brings together all the different elements that make a fashion and design industry successful – trade, consumer, business and talent development. Working as a unified whole is more effective than working in silos, as the different components and partners can lend support and resources to each other.

3. How much was spent for AFX 2011 and the portion supported by the government?
Soh Chin: AFX is a public-private sector partnership that involves several parties. Each party contributes in a varying manner, with some contributions being in kind rather than in monetary terms. As this is currently an ongoing effort, we are unable to put a specific dollar figure to the overall cost involved.

4. How long does it take to plan each year’s AFX and how many people does it take to plan?
Joyce: AFX is in its third year now and time has really flown by! Technically, it takes about a year to plan each AFX. However, the reality is that this year’s AFX is the result of all the work that has been done since the very beginning in 2009 when the first AFX was launched. We laid the foundations then and it’s been an ongoing process to grow this platform which is still in its infancy. And precisely because it is still so young, the work never stops. We need to keep feeding and developing this baby until it is firmly on its feet and ready to stand tall with the Milans and New Yorks of the world.
I can’t really tell you how many people it takes to plan but it’s a large number! There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes – from getting the venues ready, to the fashion show production, booking flights for international designers to come here to organizing schedules and time tables to make sure everything runs like clockwork. We are a cast from all over the world!

5. How can I (an average person on the street) be a part of AFX?
Soh Chin: The AFX is all about growing the fashion industry in all its aspects, via its four pillar events – Blueprint, which is a trade show and platform for emerging designers; Audi Fashion Festival Singapore, which is a showcase of top international designers; Star Creation which identifies and trains the Asian design talents of tomorrow; and Asia Fashion Summit which gathers the world’s best business minds in fashion together to discuss and present their innovative ideas.
The average person in the street, therefore, who has an interest in fashion, can be part of any of these events by purchasing a ticket to participate. While Blueprint is a trade show that is only open to trade, Blueprint Emporium on 19 May will open its doors to the public who can enjoy the chance to buy limited edition or sample pieces from brands that are not available here. It is truly an exciting way to get the public involved and to introduce to them exciting new brands which may become big labels in the future.
Also, AFX is also strongly behind our local designers and we hope to get more people to support them by buying and wearing local brands. So this is really how you can do your part on the very basic level, as an average person on the street – start wearing local labels and support our own homegrown talent!
Joyce: Yes, indeed! It is a noble cause! On another level, AFX also welcomes people who are interested in volunteering to help at the events, which take place from 14 to 20 May. Visit our website www.asiafashionexchange.com.sg for more details.

6. What kind of impact do you wish to see bouncing off from each year’s AFX?
Soh Chin: We would love to see AFX grow in strength year after year, through the growth of all its four pillars. We would also love to see each pillar supporting one another and spinning off ways in which they can work together across their different platforms.
In fact, this has already started to happen this year and I’d like to share what I mean: The 2011 winners of Star Creation will, for the first time, have a chance to showcase their collections at a dedicated booth at the Blueprint trade show. This means top international buyers will be able to see their offerings. And, if these buyers actually indicate interest in ordering, local retail giant FJ Benjamin will step in to help these budding designers put together an order for export. I think this is a wonderful example of how the different components of the fashion industry are coming together to support each other across platforms.
Tjin: Yes, as Soh Chin said, this is a great example of the synergy between the pillars that we want to encourage. Another eventual result we hope to see coming out of AFX is, of course, to nurture a future design star who will really put Singapore on the world fashion radar. We would love to say that AFX helped create and develop the next Alexander Wang, for example!

7. How does AFX adapt to the digital age?
Joyce: We are going digital in a big way this year, continuing to unite fashion & digital innovation, promoting interaction with this global fashion showcase through social media, live streaming and pioneering new platforms. 2011 saw the Audi Fashion Festival increase its viewership by a staggering 500,000 viewers as it was live streamed to over 91 countries. In 2012 we look forward to an even stronger digital schedule!
For the first time, AFX will be launching its AFX NOW! Fashion blog, where key influencers and big names in fashion, both locally and internationally will share their insights on current trends & views from array of current topics across the industry. Come May, a select panel of these contributors will be invited to participate in the AFX NOW! Live Fashion debate which will be live streamed to a global audience from our website.
There will also be a revolutionary and exciting new digital platform launched during Audi Fashion Festival Singapore, which will be announced shortly. So, watch this space!

8. What is Colin McDowell like? Any interesting facts about him?
Tjin: Colin and I have worked together for many years and he is an invaluable asset to the AFX. He is also the creative director of the Audi Fashion Festival Singapore, which means he helps decide which big names we get to see on the runways here every year. But, more than that, he is an avid supporter of Singapore fashion and of what Singapore is trying to do to make itself Asia’s premier fashion hub. We are very lucky to have the advice and support of someone who has had so much experience in the industry.

9. Fill in the blanks: During AFX, I cannot live without________
Tjin: Magnum Mini ice creams! They are my stress relief fix!
Joyce: A mobile phone charger for my iphone as it tends to run out of juice before the day is over. And foot massages!
Soh Chin: My BlackBerry. It keeps me organized and connected, especially during this particularly hectic period.

10. Fill in the blanks: In five years, I wish to see AFX________
Joyce: Established as Asia’s premier fashion event, mentioned in all the top fashion media around the world.
Soh Chin: Become recognized as a must-attend event in the world’s fashion calendar.
Tjin: Produce world-famous international fashion stars.

Interview done by Laila Lu, RockTheTrend.com™ and Sarah, wottoncool.com

If you have a burning question to ask about AFX, simply tweet it with #AskAFX!