As Chinese demand for a wider variety of small niche fashion labels takes off, a new caliber of international wholesale showrooms is flooding into China. One of these is Ontimeshow, a new Shanghai-based trade show connecting fashion brands with buyers, agents, and distributors in China and internationally. Curated with a mix of British, French, and Italian brands as well as a number of emerging Chinese, Korean and Japanese labels, the showroom made its China debut last year.
In order to learn more about this new era of up-and-coming brands becoming readily available to Chinese buyers, we spoke with Anthony Flamos, the founder of Ontimeshow exhibitor AMF Showroom, a London-based fashion and sales marketing agency geared towards supporting new luxury fashion designers. In his interview, he gave us his opinion on why China’s fashion-forward consumers are looking toward emerging designers and how dramatically the market has changed in just three years.
Can you give us an overview of your background?
I’ve been in the fashion and luxury industry for over 30 years. I started in retail for Browns in London; I then transferred with Prada and worked directly with Miuccia Prada in the early 2000’s to launch the retail stores in London for three years. Then, Tom Ford asked me to work with him at Gucci for sales marketing and buying.
From there on, I founded my own brand and was in a business partnership with a designer who grew to be very famous. I sold my shares to found the company AMF (my initials). I formed the company in 2010 in the mission to find and support new luxury, contemporary, and emerging designers that can rise on an international scale.
I’ve been in London for over 20 years and I truly believe there’s a lot of strong talent coming through from the London fashion scene. Seeing this potential talent, I wanted to start a sales marketing design consulting agency that would assist with new luxury designers coming through the scene. It’s not just about being talented and creative; it’s also important to have a company structure in place and a business plan where I can also give them an all-around package with my buying, marketing, and sales background.
What is your current global business strategy for AMF?
We have two showrooms based in London and Paris, where we do men’s and women’s pre and main collections four times a year.
My strategy is to target markets around the world, so we’re highly present in the Middle East and now China. China for me is a very exciting country to be working in. There’s so much opportunity. It’s like watching a child growing up; they are growing at an exponential rate. At our Paris showroom during Paris Fashion Week, most of our buyers are Chinese since many multi-brand and new luxury stores are opening up at a rapid rate.
China is a luxury market with many big fashion brands, however generally, the current selling collections are very safe and highly commercial given that they must deal with huge expenses and overhead costs. Thus, [they] can’t take too much risk; the catwalk collections are strictly for press and VIPs, where the production is only in very small quantities. I think the Chinese market is starting to realize and notice that there’s much more to life in luxury markets than just the big names. There’s a lot of talented young designers who are doing extraordinary things. Moreover, many of them are part of the creative teams for these fashion houses but are also doing freelance on the side and plan on launching their own collections. It seems today that the consumers in China are seeking to find more individual designs. China’s rich are looking for new luxury contemporary designers who have a unique design, they are tired of wearing what their friends are wearing.
Our showroom prides itself on finding very high-caliber designers, where we’re looking for sophisticated, elegant, and feminine styles with color—particularly red—for the Chinese consumer. We also selected and handpicked shapes that are in alignment with their petite frame, so nothing too voluminous.
From your point of view and experience, who are the strongest designers for the China market?
We specifically handpicked the designers for China. One of the strongest designers that I’m showcasing is Antonio Grimaldi, from Rome, who just joined La Chambre Syndicale de Paris and recently closed Paris Fashion Week at the Italian Embassy of Paris this year. There’s also Christiano Burani from Milan, who showcased his collection during Milan Fashion Week, UMA, the Brazilian designer from São Paulo (with over 100 points of sale in Brazil), as well as Megan Park from Melbourne. She originally designed prints for Kenzo—she does more casual designs with many different color combinations.
Since Ontimeshow is still new, what are your main challenges when presenting in China?
Three years ago, I showcased my collections and showroom in Shanghai and the Chinese market didn’t seem to react or understand the concept. Most of them just attended the party without knowing much about the showroom. This year, it’s completely different!
What are some of your new upcoming projects?
I’m in negotiation to open franchising for branding and the showrooms. There’s a possibility for franchising in Dubai the next year; we also plan to franchise in China, the States, and South America in the next coming years.
Yanie Durocher is a lifestyle and fashion blogger at The Marginalist.