US fashion chain J Crew has chosen to open its first overseas store in Asia rather than Europe, according to reports.

J Crew will now take its first step into international waters in Hong Kong and Beijing, opening in department stores in the autumn.

The move conflicts with recent reports that J Crew was eying stores in the UK. However, sources close to the situation have insisted J Crew is still firmly committed to opening shops in London through property firm Harper Dennis Hobbs.

The retailer’s decision to head to Asia before Europe, where US brands traditionally begin their overseas expansion, reflects a new reality in the fashion market according to J Crew chief executive Millard Drexler.

He told the Financial Times: “No one in Hong Kong is really selling clothes like ours, with a fashion edge and fabrics from Italy, that are priced between the high street brands and the high end.”

J Crew has partnered with Asian department store Lane Crawford to open in its stores in both locations. It will expand across four further stores over the following months and will open a Shanghai flagship next year.

ConcretePlatform chief executive Tristan Rogers said: “The fact that both J Crew and Mulberry are choosing Asia over Europe should also be no surprise, for Asia offers more potential than Europe at the moment. However, these two factors don’t guarantee success.”

He added: “Whilst it is without doubt a sound strategy, both these brands need to protect the very essence of what they have created; their “brand promise”, and this must be consistent in everything they do, everything their customer sees and touches, and their entire go to market strategy. Asia is a long way away, both geographically and culturally, so monitoring day to day brand performance can’t be achieved by popping down the shop to see how it’s doing.”