THE Gold Coast fashion industry is poised for some high-end exposure this week as some of the country's biggest fashion agents gather for a closed trade event to be held in Surfers Paradise.

The move comes as the local fashion industry recognises the growing importance of resort fashion among the Chinese who are emerging as one of the fastest growing tourism markets in the world.

The Emerging Designer Trade Fair, an initiative from the organisers of the Gold Coast Swim Fashion Festival, will host eight top line agents, including power agent Phoebe Garland of Garland and Garland and Kim Van Weelde of VW Fashion at Soul this weekend.

The agents will meet one-on-one with 11 Queensland designers in a bid to source innovative new designs to meet what the industry sees as a lucrative growth sector.

"It will be a very intense day for both agents and for designers," says organiser Leanne St George.

"They will start at 10am and end at 4pm, with appointments every 30 minutes.

"A developing fashion label really needs an agent to be able to get stocked on a national and international basis, and most fashion agents just don't give young designers the time of day, or even return a phone call.

"So our solution was to bring the highly important southern fashion influencers into our beautiful city and put them directly in front of our designers."

St George says the event will mark the first time in years some agents have been to the Gold Coast in the course of their business.

It also comes as the industry recognises the potential of the global swimwear and beachwear market which is projected to grow to $US20 billion by 2020, driven by innovative products such as UV protection swimsuits and thermal swimwear. China is recognised as the fastest-growing market for this fashion sector, both in terms of value and volume sales.

This weekend's event is supported by market researcher Urbis and accommodation group Mantra (ASX:MTR).

Urbis regional director Peter Hyland sees "incredible value" in backing south-east Queensland's resort and swim fashion industry.

"It is important for corporations like Urbis to be part of putting back into the community for future business growth," he says.

"The Gold Coast is perfectly positioned to capture the imagination and expenditure of Asia in the resort fashion industry and with events like the Emerging Designer Trade Fair and Gold Coast Swim Fashion Festival which uniquely profile our region.

"It is very timely to invest in these resort-style fashion events, particularly with the billions of dollars of Chinese development being concentrated on integrated resorts, which of course tie in perfectly with resort and swimwear fashion. It adds a very stylish gloss to the Gold Coast."

St George says the annual Gold Coast Swim Fashion Festival, which is supported by the city council's Economic Development unit, has helped boost the profile of Gold Coast design talent nationally in recent years.

"The Gold Coast is gaining a reputation for design and we want that to dominate the resort and swim wear categories," she says.

"Our Gold Coast lifestyle is famous, our climate is iconic, and so fashion based on the two specialty categories of resort and swimwear is a natural growth area for our fashion industry.

"If you wanted inspiration to design and produce spectacular summer fashion, you would want to be based on the Gold Coast or south-east Queensland."

St George says the new Emerging Designer Trade Fair is a natural progression from the success of last year's festival to promote designers on a larger scale and possibly secure contracts for them.

"Events like these are actively focusing on the growing trend from the Chinese fashion market to buy swim and resort wear," says St George.

"We have an enormous heritage of swim, surf and resort from Paula Stafford in 1950s through to swimwear giants such a Billabong (ASX:BBG) and SurfStitch (ASX:SRF).

"TAFE Queensland on a state level have invested in the development of resort and swim fashion with the festival through the ground-level educational support of the student design awards section.

"Over 1500 students in TAFE's in Queensland study fashion design, with another 500 at universities and private institutions throughout the state.

"The focus is to have students come to south-east Queensland and study in these specialty fashion categories from around Australia and Asia. Education is a major economic driver for the south-east Queensland region.

"The potential for the continued development of resort and swim fashion areas is unlimited. If our concentrated development program can be continually undertaken with the assistance of local and state government, we are light years ahead of the rest of the country."

Feature image: Design by Annabelledeve | Second image: Design by Peony

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