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The cool-edged chic of a new Hong Kong
Updated: 2004-11-30 11:16

Let's call her Sarah Jessica Woo. She's a new breed of young Chinese women, post Tai-Tai, post logos, with her own eclectic spirit.
Whether or not Hong Kong's 20-somethings owe anything to "Sex and the City" and the imaginative way its star, Sarah Jessica Parker, put her look together, there is a definite change in the way that fashion is perceived in a city that was once a by-word for putting on the Ritz.
The Christmas tree in Statue Square reaches for the sky, visitors are already wandering the kitsch Mistletoe Boulevard and the hotels are packed with pre-holiday revelers. But for all of Hong Kong's glitter and glamour, when it comes to fashion, it is the beginning of a new era. The Tai-Tais who espoused designer glamour are now challenged by young women whose look is still aspirational and put together, but has a more cool-edged chic.
You can count the designer bags as you stroll the walkways through the Central District's shopping meccas, from Alexandra House through the Landmark mall: Gucci's hobo, Louis Vuitton's Takashi Murakami graphics, Fendi's shoulder baguette, Dior's dice trimmings. These aren't presented with the trophy wives' head-to-toe outfits, but with jeans or denim skirts, fancy T-shirts, lightweight leather jackets and that laid-black chic of pretty top and well-cut pants that is the image of the Chloe girl.
One Juicy Couture bag photographed on a Hong Kong street summed up the trend: "Lighten up ĘC be juicy," it read.
Adrienne Ma, managing director of Joyce Boutique Holdings, has charted the changes since her mother, Joyce Ma, brought designer brands to Hong Kong a quarter of a century ago.
"Fashion is so accessible now," Ma says. "Lifestyles have changed and preferences have changed. In the 1970s, the Tai-Tais had to be quite wealthy to afford high fashion. It was truly niche. Now there is Zara, Esprit, Mango and H&M. Information is much more accessible and many more brands are shouting at the same time. The new customer is more sophisticated and the world is much smaller."
Ma describes the new Hong Kong consumer as "still very brand conscious," likely to be wearing $500 HermĘĘs jeans and carrying a bag that could be an unusual piece rather than just big brand.
Jennifer Woo, president of Lane Crawford, agrees that there is a new consumer who is bucking some of the trends. "We were sitting in the store's restaurant for Saturday brunch and we saw people coming in that we have never seen before," Wood says of the restaurant looking over Victoria Harbour at the new Lane Crawford store in the International Finance Center, where Zara has a prominent position.
"We have a new target customer that I don't think anyone has addressed," Woo says. "She will mix Chloe with designer jeans. You can't define her by demographics. She knows Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys. She is global."
Phoebe Philo, an English-born designer at Chloe, defines this 21st-century look: "I do think that I relate to a worldwide breed of women. I don't know women who wear trousers/shirts to work. The women we dress and who come to Chloe don't have uniforms: a work wardrobe and a weekend wardrobe. Modern living doesn't require that strictness any more. Young women feel confident and empowered by their own judgment and awareness of fashion and what they like. They make their own choices to create a more personal style."
Whether it is the result of actual travel or virtual knowledge acquired from magazines and the Internet, the Hong Kong woman is leaving the Chinese consumer far behind.
"With the mainland Chinese, it really does take time," says Ma. "With money they can buy fashion and luxury, but they cannot buy style and class." Those subtle qualities, she says, are what her store aims to provide.
But whatever the style of the fashionable pan-Asian woman, there is one accessory she cannot live without: A state-of-the-art telephone, pinned permanently to the ear - when it is not being used to photograph friends or check for e-mail. 

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