Chen, who works as a designer for a leading shoe-making firm, says her creative ideas are often tempered by relatively strict commercial guidelines.
“I get my creative ideas in many ways: Seeing the fabric, or the color. The production process also influences my ideas,” says Chen, adding “My company tells me a lot of the guidelines I have to follow, I don’t have total creative freedom. However, I have security in my work.”
By contrast, says Su, “My customers sometimes give me more freedom, but when they want something then I have to do it. My customer is my boss.”
Scores of trendy young people — bedecked in outlandish outfits and sporting many of their own sartorial creations — indicates that this traditional fabric market is attracting a new type of customer. Nevertheless, many of the market’s old-timers say that challenges remain.
The two designers, who have chosen different career paths, both see the potential threat which low-cost Chinese products and tailoring pose to a market which they both value. With more and more fabrics being imported from China, local industries are feeling the pinch.
“It’s impossible to compete with China in terms of price,” says Chen. “But in terms of tailor-made goods, it’s hard to communicate with a tailor in China and you don’t know that you’ll get what you asked for.”
Su agrees and looks lovingly around the cloth-strewn interior of her shop and into the corridor nearby. With a smile she says: “I think there is still a place for this market. Some people still want different things that can only be made here, they want something unique.”