Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions from me today.
I have known you and your husband Alex for a few years now as you’re fellow expats living in Malaysia. We regularly chat about e-commerce and how to make money online from remote locations.
Recently you have been busy creating a fashion brand completely from scratch using your experience with wholesaling luxury brands from Europe to China.
As you know, I have been creating a supplement from scratch and so understand some of the processes behind this. Seeing you guys putting this together was fascinating and so wanting to share your story on my blog, possibly to inspire other readers to take action. So, let’s jump into some questions.
1. Can you give our readers some background on where you are from and previous education and career?
I was born in Canton in China where I have spent most of my life. I studied in South China Agriculture University with a major in English Literature, the first year I was interested in arts and joined in with projects with fashion designers and photographers. You could say I first became interested in design then.
I got involved in the commercial aspects of shooting for fashion for two years but didn’t pursue it because of the difficulties of earning a living at this time.
After graduating I did quite a few jobs, most notably a Perfume trainer for P & G Prestige. I then moved to Hong Kong to work in retail consultancy for some luxury brands.
I left China in 2012 and moved to Malaysia with my husband. While living in Malaysia I got my MBA in Business and started a Fashion Consulting company in Hong Kong.
2. You have been based in Malaysia now for over six years, what made you move and make your base here?
I really like Penang as it reminds me a little of Hong Kong but is less developed, crowded, and a lot cheaper to live. The pace of life is slower and so much more relaxed, and still very well connected to cities in Asia.
Moving to Malaysia as an ex-pat can be straight forward although because I was from China it was a little more tricky.
Although I have thought on a few occasions I would move from Penang I always find that I return and enjoy the pace of life here.
3. You already have a business where you wholesale luxury brands from Europe to China. Can you outline how you got into this and how this works?
We went to a friend’s wedding in Paris in 2016 and when there we were invited to a Italian friend’s fashion exhibition. He wanted to expand into the China market and asked if we could help him out as we had contacts there.
Interestingly at the same trade show, we were able to get two other clients who wanted the same service. Thus we were able to turn this idea into a new business model, in which we helped European brands expand into the Chinese market.
Considering the appetite for luxury brands in China and the size of the market, this seemed a very good opportunity.
How this works is different depending on the client. It could be that we act simply as a sole introduction agency, or that we actually wholesale the products directly.
4. With the recent geopolitical issues with the USA and China has your business or soon to be released fashion brand been adversely affected?
The short answer no. Whenever disruption occurs there is also opportunity.
5. So tell us about your new fashion brand. Can you reveal the name? Who is aimed towards and what was your inspiration for creating it?
Yes, I can, we just launched two weeks ago at the Paris fashion week 2019.
The brand is called CherCher Design and we develop affordable luxury handbags and other leather goods.
The inspiration for the brand was created during a trans-oceanic trip from Martinique to South East Asia with my husband. Our website best explains with this quote:
Drawing inspiration, materials, and talent from nations and cultures across the globe. Chercher is the embodiment of the international ideals that define the modern community while paying homage and respect to the hopes, dreams, and elegant creation that have built our world.
It’s a young playful brand for people who like to travel and experience the joys of life.
6. Moving from promoting and managing other brands to creating and establishing your own is a big step. What made you want to take the challenge and take the risk of creating your own brand?
Yes, your absolutely right, our workload is ten times what it was 6-months ago. However, with no risk, there is a little reward, as your favorite comedy program says “he who dares, wins”. [classic]
We don’t really want to necessarily just sell handbags, we are fascinated with the dynamics behind creating a brand. Having worked for many years with dozens of luxury brands, we believe we have what it takes to transform our product into a global brand.
The mechanics of growing this brand, just like the journey across the ocean, is largely unknown and there are risks. But setting out into the unknown and conquering your fears is part of the adventure.
7. Both you and Alex have been working on your brand. I know from experience it’s a lot of work doing this sort of thing from scratch. How have you managed the workload between the two of you and have you enlisted outside help?
I am the designer whilst Alex manages the technical side.
Along the way, we have had issues, such as the factory where we were producing our products going out of business. What was first a headache also presented us with a great opportunity, and so we ended up purchasing the factory ourselves which enabled us to secure our supply chain.
This is a big deal, as intellectual property theft is a big problem in mainland China. So, by having our own factory we protect ourselves but also gain more freedom in design and quality control.
It also means that we have the responsibility for a larger number of staff, which has bought forward issues of corporate and social responsibility. Issues we wouldn’t have thought of at this stage of the business.
8. What’s the next step and the plan for the future?
Now that our first collection has been released our main focus is on marketing. We have a few non-traditional ideas that are going to be implemented in the next few months, so please stay tuned.