Unlike many Hong Kong companies who have a "fever" to sell in the United States, Ozorio wants the Asian consumer. "China is one-quarter of the world's population," he says, smiling.
"My major ambition is to create a Chinese image--because there is none."
Ozorio makes the kind of uptown suits and evening wear you'd expect to find on the cast of "Dynasty." It's hard-edged wealth for a city of overachievers.
"People want to look tough, aggressive and well-turned-out. That's power," he says--an assessment that contradicts another young designer's view of "humble" Chinese tastes.
"You have to conform here in a way--blend into your surroundings," says Ragence Lam, who designed a black jersey collection for the show. "You shouldn't overdo or outdo your sister-in-law."
While others grapple for a Chinese image, established firms like Diane Freis hone theirs to a profitable art. The Freis factory turns out 15,000 pieces a month: Bright, one-size-fits-all dresses, priced $400 to $1,500, half destined for upper-crust U.S stores, the rest scattered around the globe.
She came here 12 years ago for Hong Kong's free-spirited business climate and its proximity to Far Eastern fabric sources. She'd rather work here than anywhere--although Freis and husband Bradley did recently build a two-acre estate in L.A.'s Holmby Hills.
"I'm an American--but I don't think about it everyday," Freis says in a faint British accent heard often in this colony where both British and Cantonese are spoken.
"This is a city built for action. I'm motivated by the intensity. I love the hassle of it all, because it's colorful.
"People here make the world turn," Freis says. "The reason there's so much protectionism (U.S. laws restricting Hong Kong imports) is because Hong Kong is so dynamic."
"It's awe-inspiring--the ability here to pick up and do and make," adds Wilmer Weiss, an I. Magnin vice president in town for Fashion Week.
Hong Kong's strength is its speed, flexibility, and wages that average less than one third those in the U.S garment industry. It also has the cutting-edge machinery. In the past two years, industry here has invested in more computerized knitting machines--at $500,000 each--than any country in the world.
Its weakness is the quota system, instigated by the United States to protect a domestic clothing industry thwarted by foreign imports.
The amount of imported clothing sold in the United States has more than doubled since 1980--much of that due to growing volume from cheap labor sources such as China, Korea, Taiwan, Bangladesh, India and the Caribbean, according to Carl Priestland, chief economist for the American Apparel Manufacturers Assn.
In the early '80s, Hong Kong imports grew by about 8% annually. But the new trade agreement limits that growth to less than 1% annually.
Companies selling from Hong Kong pay quota fees for the right to use part of that U.S. allotment. Some firms own quota rights outright for certain garments, such as cotton blouses or wool skirts; others bargain for quotas on what amounts to a volatile, mini-stock market.
Traditionally, cotton, wool and man-made fibers were subject to strict limits, while other fibers entered the United States quota-free. In August, however, ramie, linen and silk blends were added to the restricted list, leaving Hong Kong fewer loopholes than ever for selling clothes to the United States.
There's also a growing pro-U.S. movement for Hong Kong to contend with: The Crafted With Pride in the U.S.A. Council, for example, sponsors an avalanche of celebrity TV ads in the United States to lure consumers back to Made-in-U.S.A. labels, and clothing firms back to U.S. factories.
The council asserts that there are "hidden costs" firms face when using Far Eastern labor. It also asserts that given a choice, consumers would prefer to buy domestically made clothes.
"What we're involved with is really survival." Bob Swift, executive director of the New York-based council, says. "The United States has lost more than 350,000 jobs in the apparel industry since 1980s. The level of imports coming into this country are the equivalent of 700,000 jobs. That's why we were founded--to emphasize why it's important to buy apparel that's made here (in the United States)."
But for Hong Kong, the bigger worry is quotas.
At Camberly Enterprises, maker of the Anne Klein II and other better sportswear lines, "the quota kills our business," says manager Margaret Lee, seated in her Hong Kong office wearing a prim Anne Klein II suit. Lee says a $10 quota fee can be attached to a wool skirt that costs her company less than that amount to produce. She acknowledges that such steep quota fees have driven some of her customers back to U.S. labor.
Esprit also feels the quota crunch. With wool so restricted, this company that calls natural fibers its "backbone," turns increasingly to man-made fabrics.