MIDDLE-CLASS consumers in southeast Asian cities, particularly Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, are ready to spend more money on fashion items over the next two years,

An Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) middle-income consumer survey conducted by Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) indicated that fashion took the third place in terms of spending in the past two years, just after travel and leisure; and health, beauty and wellness.

Among fashion and accessory items, the distribution of spending were: business attire (28 percent), casual wear (26 percent), shoes (22 percent), accessories (12 percent), travel goods and handbags (eight percent), and spectacles (four percent).

“The whole way Asean consumers experience fashion is fundamentally different from a decade ago. In the past, people who lived in Paris, Milan or New York might know the fashion trends first, but via the internet and overseas travel, Asean people nowadays are well aware of international fashion trends,” it said.

But while Asean people want international designer brands, they are also attached to fashion reflecting their unique cultural heritage and history.

The survey noted that some local designers from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand, who are “turning to local cultural heritage and history for inspiration in order to create a distinctive fashion identity that is able to stand out and differentiate itself from the international brands.”

“Some designers have successfully incorporated rich cultural heritage to establish a design authenticity that is not just appealing to local consumers but also international tourists. Asean fashion is about embracing cultural roots instead of disregarding them for a global approach,” it said.

With the 634 million citizens of Asean are still young, the survey pointed out that youth is an essential consideration for foreign fashion brands that wish to tap into the Asean market.

Asean’s fashion trends are moving towards street style, fun denim, off white jeans, oversized shirts, logo hoodies, and statement T-shirts.

Rock and roll, hip-hop, dramas and movies are all big reference points in Asean’s fashion scene, it said.

It added “athleisure” is also a prevalent theme of fashion in Asean amid a booming global trend toward fitness and healthy living. The survey, likewise, underscored the influence of social media on fashion purchases, especially Asean millennials’ decisions on purchasing clothing and fashion accessories.

“Today everybody in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand can log into Instagram and follow an influencer. If she posts an outfit of the day, millions of people in Asean will see that photo, potentially steering trends. Today both local and foreign fashion brands in Asean are making use of social media to reach out to target consumer segments,” it said.

With the high penetration of Facebook and Instagram, Asean consumers are increasingly adopting “wear it once” culture, as they are not pictured in the same outfit twice on social media. This partly explains why fast fashion has become a dominant clothing trend,” it added.

Citing earlier data, the survey further identified the projected top five cities for consumption and fashion spending which included Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore, and Bangkok.

“However, it is small and medium-size cities in Asean that will drive future economic growth,” it said. Philexport News and Features