Successful businesses are all about knowing the market and finding a niche. While there is very little that's new in the competitive world of fashion, there is always room for a fresh approach by creative new talent.
Many people believe that they have what it takes to be a great designer, yet the reality TV show Project Runway stresses that it takes consistently fabulous work and grace under pressure to pull off a hit collection.
Hong Kong native Carrie Hare knows all about making it work. She originally majored in journalism and for four years she covered lifestyle topics such as art and fashion for the South China Morning Post.
As she gained familiarity with up-and-coming brand names, she found the industry fascinating enough to pursue a part-time fashion design course and worked on projects directed by graphic and fashion designer Silvio Chan.
"Through these projects, I understood that fashion design is more than just drawing on paper," Hare says. "There's a lot to play with in regards to materials and form manipulation. I could see myself having a lifelong career experimenting with all these ideas rather than working for a newspaper."
Hare began to test the waters, first by submitting work for the Hong Kong Trade Development Council's New Collection competition, which she eventually won in the casual wear and technology application categories.
She was also awarded a full scholarship to pursue a master's degree in fashion design at the University of Westminster.
"I never seriously considered making a real career move until I received a scholarship," Hare notes.
She found the thriving London design scene a fertile hothouse for honing her talent.
Working first at Alexander McQueen and then Boudicca, she saw firsthand what it took to run a successful business.
"At McQueen, I learned the importance of research to keep ideas fresh. I also learned how to transform raw materials, which are often unrelated to fashion into something that can be applied," Hare says.
"At Boudicca I was involved in every part of the brand, including design, fabric research, production and exhibiting collections in our Paris showroom.
"I learned about budgets, schedules and networking, and how to turn raw ideas into silhouettes. Fabric choices can often enhance the concepts. I also was exposed to international standards of styling for people like La Roux, James Lavelle's Unkle and British pianist Rosey Chan."
Hare's strength is her ability to translate patterns into flattering fits for the human body. Through her stint at Boudicca, she realized that it would be simpler to concentrate on designing one item when she launched her first collection. That item was legwear.
"Print was my strength and what I needed was a canvas," she says. "I think that many designers choose T-shirts to start, but I wanted something more niche. Legwear is also something that I truly love to wear."
Hare's first collection under the label R.I. by Carrie was dubbed Accidental Collage and unveiled in late 2011. Within six months, more than 10 outlets snapped up her designs.
They loved the slimming lines and well-engineered silhouettes, balanced by stylized narratives. Secret Oriental gardens, diamonds in the jungle and the tensions between geisha and qilin were all fair game, frolicking upon well-heeled women's gams.
Hare initially tested her designs at London's weekend market to see how they would be received. It was a relatively safe way of showcasing her work and one of the many reasons she found the city so inspiring.
"There are a lot of brands working on commercial, ready-to-wear designs in London but the city also had a scene for emerging designer brands," Hare says.
"The latter is rather weak in Hong Kong, where speed and efficiency rule. In London, designers take time to develop concepts and conduct in-depth research for fabrics, print ideas and silhouettes.
"There is more freedom for crossover projects and we are encouraged to find unusual ways of presenting fashion, such as through videos and installations. And the general public also has a greater appreciation for original ideas."
Last year, she followed with a capsule fall/winter collection of women's apparel featuring her signature bold prints.
Ethereal yet dominated by angular hemlines, the dresses and tunics are reminiscent of origami, with pink, blue and purple metallic glints.
Fanciful rabbits and unicorns modernize traditional French toile du jouy and give a new spin on the classic kimono. All the pieces are imbued with Hare's casual chic aesthetic, moving easily from work to play.
Meanwhile, her latest legwear collection is dubbed When Nature Reigns and depicts environmental stories such as a deep-sea forest or a violet earthquake. (It's a play on the word violent, as the color used is violet.)
"I like a good range of darkly intense, sharp colors such as pink and purple, as well as metallic," Hare says. "I don't want my designs to be too feminine as many of my customers prefer sporty, unisex designs. I personally love geometric, strong lines and forms, and often collage them with softer elements such as florals."
Hare finds inspiration in the most unlikely of places, such as photography, advertising, films or books. She feels that each of her prints is like a work of art - yet is more accessible than a painting hanging in a gallery because it can be worn.
Her customers are typically women between 20 and 40 years old, who seek unusual designs made from excellent materials. Many are expatriates or have been educated overseas, and understand the concept of getting what you pay for, even in a pair of tights or leggings.
"My products showcase a blend of Eastern and Western influences, and I think this blend is something that is dear to the heart of the contemporary Chinese woman," Hare says.
"I think that Beijing and possibly Hangzhou are where we would most likely succeed in China. We are still looking for a partner shop in Beijing. I understand that Inner Mongolian customers love bold designs, but I haven't explored that market yet.