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Speech By Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Minister In Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister For Finance And Transport, At Opening Of The Asia Fashion Summit

28 Apr 2010

Mr Benny Pua
President of the Textile & Fashion Federation (Singapore),

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.      I am very happy to join you today at the launch of the inaugural Asia Fashion Summit, a key event of the Asia Fashion Exchange. My warmest welcome to all foreign guests who have specially come to join us here in Singapore for this event.

2.      The Asia Fashion Exchange, or AFX, is an integrated platform for the development of Singapore's fashion industry. Comprising other events such as Blueprint, Audi Fashion Festival and Star Creation, it brings together the private sector, the Textile and Fashion Federation of Singapore, and government agencies such as the Singapore Tourism Board, International Enterprise Singapore and SPRING Singapore, for an all-rounded representation of the industry. The AFX leverages a three-pronged approach – cultivating design talent, stimulating both local and international demand, and positioning Singapore as the centre of Asian fashion on the international stage.

3.      As the first Asian information exchange for fashion matters, this Asia Fashion Summit sets out to be the central driving force for the development of Asia as its strategic fashion hub. Asia has become the most attractive market destination for the fashion and retail industry, with its growing middle class demonstrating increasingly sophisticated tastes. According to Euromonitor International, the Asia Pacific had a combined purchasing power for fashion and footwear of some US$370 billion in 2008, a dramatic increase of over 60% from US$227 billion in 2007.

4.      Asia has also rebounded from the global financial crisis faster than its Western counterparts. Consumer confidence in most Asia Pacific countries, with the exception of Japan, has returned to pre-crisis levels. The Asian fashion retail market is also expected to gain momentum in the coming years. The Asian fashion market size is projected to grow at more than 5% compounded annual growth rate from 2008 to 2013, compared to a possible contraction in Western Europe and in North America.

5.      Today's summit boasts an impressive lineup of celebrated speakers from around the world, who will touch on the challenges and opportunities for the industry in today's constantly changing market and consumer patterns. There will also be opportunities for participants to exchange ideas on fashion trends, market opportunities and growth strategies. Likewise, trade practitioners from all stages of the supply chain can network with one another. Indeed this Summit complements very well the Blueprint trade show, as well as the Audi Fashion Festival which are being held concurrently as part of AFX. It is also of immense benefit to aspiring designers hoping to break into the international fashion scene.

Textile and Apparel Industry in Singapore

6.      Singapore's fashion apparel industry has evolved significantly over the last 20 years. It has grown from an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) role to one that emphasises retail, innovation and design creativity. With an estimated sourcing volume of about US$3 billion, Singapore is now recognised as the second largest fashion apparel business and sourcing hub in Asia-Pacific after Hong Kong.

7.      Our manufacturers are also growing in strength. They represent key suppliers of global brands such as Nike, Gap and department stores like Macy's, and are renowned for meeting high compliance and regulatory standards. Today, a total of 4,500 wholesalers, retailers, and manufacturers generate some $7 billion in operating receipts and $1.2 billion in value added to our economy.

8.      The Asian market is a huge one with a diverse range of tastes and preference. As Asian consumers become more affluent, they increasingly drive global demand. Given Singapore's strategic location, and the cultural affinity and connectivity we share with the region, we are well-poised to serve as a test-bed to gather and analyse consumer insights, and develop products for the Asian market. Many multinational corporations and small medium enterprises have thus turned to using Singapore as a base to manage and control their regional and global operations.

Staying Competitive in the Global Marketplace

9.      Fashion, in itself, is an industry that is vibrant and ever-changing. Against such a fast-paced backdrop, fashion companies can enhance their competitiveness by adopting new trends to seize new business opportunities. The consumers of today are well-travelled, well-informed and technology savvy. Increasingly, they are also getting comfortable with online shopping. Forbes reported that China's online shopping sales alone hit $36.6 billion in 2009. This means that fashion businesses are now competing on a global arena, in the virtual world. International websites such as and NET-A-PORTER have established themselves as premier online fashion retailers and a one-stop fashion resource with worldwide customer bases. International brick and mortar fashion retailers like H&M and ZARA are also embracing the online store culture for greater customer reach.

10.      Additionally, fashion businesses should also look into improving the knowledge and technical skill set of their own workforce. To this end, I would like to commend TaFf and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, who have jointly developed the Textile and Fashion Technology Workforce Skills Qualifications, or WSQ, framework which covers training in fashion design, product development, merchandising and engineering competencies under various specialisation tracks. Together with the Retail WSQ framework, over 100 quality training courses are now available to a company in the apparel manufacturing or retail front to hone the skills of their employees. Both WSQ frameworks have trained 28,370 workers to date and of these, over 20 per cent are professionals, managers and executives.


11.      To conclude, I would like to congratulate the Textile and Fashion Federation and its partners for organising this summit. I am sure today's speakers will bring you interesting insights and practical pointers to building your fashion business. I wish all of you a fruitful and rewarding time at this summit. Thank you.