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iQubator Fashion meets Louko

On August the 28th iQubator Fashion met Emilie Lobel, French woman founder of LOUKO 路口. Listening to her story gave us the possibility to deeply understand the reasons behind her style and creativity. Looking at her clothes flooded our eyes with beauty and unspeakable emotions.

 

iQubator: What brought you to Shanghai?

Emilie: My husband and I decided to come in China for a new experience in Asia, a part of a world which has always been attractive for both of us. In France I was a legal advisor, but I always loved fashion and the singular Parisian style, so trendy. In Shanghai, I seized the opportunity to start my business in a creative world that pleases and motivates me. My goal was to propose high quality garments, French design and tailor-made, thanks to the small team of tailors who works with me. Then I started to design and produce styles and up to this moment 2 collections have already been brought to the public, in France and in China.

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Qubator: How many collections per year do you do?

Emilie: Two collections per year, fall-winter and spring-summer, each collection usually has 30-35 pieces. I propose a collection and then details can be changed according to my customers’ needs and desires. This way my customers can be somehow involved in the creation process and this I find very important. It gives everyone the possibility to have something special and unique at the same time.

iQubator: Is there an arts style that inspires you more than others?

Emilie: Yes, I am very fond of Art Deco. My creations are all inspired by this visual arts design style born in France in the beginning of the 20th century.

iQubator: Where does your personal style come from?

Emilie: Certainly from Paris. I used to be a business woman myself, so now I mainly design clothes for active business women. My clothes are elegant, but also comfortable, perfect for long busy days, but also for a drink with your colleagues or friends right after work.

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iQubator: How can your customers find you?

Emilie: I very often attend designer markets in Shanghai, but customers can meet me at my show-room based in the ex-French concession where I organize private sales as well. People can reach me by email contact@louko.fr, or via Wechat ID: LOUKO_clothes
For France, my clothes can as well be found on the online store: www.louko.fr and for China, customers can buy them on Wechat.

New Consumer Rights Law for Goods Return in China

According to a revised “Consumer Rights Law in China”, online shoppers can now return the goods unconditionally for refunds within seven days of purchase but they have to shoulder logistics cost.

It also lists products not suitable for unconditional returns and refunds, such as digital products sold via downloads, audio-visual goods with the packaging removed, bespoke products, fresh and perishable goods, magazines, newspapers and software.

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Consumers can seek compensation from online trading platforms if the platforms fail to provide contact details for vendors using their networks. After compensating consumers, the platforms are entitled to claim compensation from the vendors.

Each coin has two sides. As to the cons of ecommerce, the brand needs to establish delivery mechanism, set up goods return option and build customer confidence in the market. Especially Chinese consumers are used to the return policy. According to PwC, Total Retail Survey(2015), Chinese consumers concern more about online purchase returns available in-store(74%) than global range(67%). So if you want to expand your market into China through online channels, it’s necessary to have a returns point in mainland China. Also because of this new policy, the rate of turns increases a lot.

So get prepared before you enter China through ecommerce channels.  iQubator is willing to help any international brands to get familiar with Chinese market and consumers and provide customized services according to your own business plan and strategy.

Fashion Finds in Shanghai

As mentioned in our last post, there are many foreign designers based in China that are hoping to bring a flare of the exotic flavour to the local fashion scene in Shanghai. iQubator wants to give some of these designers the opportunity to reach out to our followers and talk about themselves and their brands and it’s worth taking the time to read what they have said. Meet very interesting and creative designers with us. – This week we had a nice chat with Alexandra Rolfe a British designer with a passion for the 60s, collars and all things vintage. Her and her partner have their own shop which is also her studio space in a lane on Shaanxi Nan Lu, called “Select 18” which is definitely worth visiting. Here you travel back in time to find unique rarities and very special pieces.

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iQubator: When did you start designing your own clothes?

Alexandra: Moving from East London to Hong Kong I soon realized the shopping environment was completely different and I was surrounded by lots of brands and small independent shops which didn’t stock many sizes.  I regularly went back to London to buy vintage clothes to wear in Hong Kong although sometimes I did feel abit out of place! I just couldn’t find clothes that were me.  After many years of travelling in China visiting factories for my job I got a better understanding of production and learnt a lot.  This inspired me to create my own brand for the future.  At week-ends I would take a trip over to Shenzhen where there are some very good tailors and started creating my own designs plus an extra couple of pieces to sell in my boyfriends store in Hong Kong.

iQubator: Did you also study fashion design?

Alexandra: I studied BA Fashion & Textile management, which is the whole fashion business cycle. It starts from design process through to production to merchandising, buying to marketing and in the final year concentrated on management. In my 3rd year we needed to do an industrial placement, which I got at Oasis Stores (http://www.oasis-stores.com/?lng=en&ctry=GB&) I opted for buying and once graduated I returned to the Oasis as Assistant Buyer and worked my way up before moving to Gap (http://www.gap.com ) and later to Hong Kong for a German brand called Colloseum (http://www.colloseum.net )

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iQubator:  Did someone inspire your designs?

Alexandra: Frankly a lot of my inspiration comes from the past, as I love the 60’s I am very influenced by Mary Quant. I love collars or any kind of neck details and so did she. Naturally Twiggy was very iconic during this period too. I love typical shift dresses, the shape is easy and classic.  Alexa Chung Is someone I always feel would wear my designs so well, she has a thing for collars and has a very British aesthetic. In general I like her effortless style.

iQubator: Where would you look for inspirations?

Alexandra: I find old cities inspiring, for example Shanghai is full of art deco references, which I would love to merge the details into future collections. A lot of old things captivate me whether it be a building, tiles or even a book.  There is always elements which fuel new ideas.

iQubator: How do you think your brand fits in the Chinese market?

Alexandra: From what I can see fashion demand is veering towards uniqueness.  My style is niche but this important now. I have great customers who get the look and are experimental and are open to try which is great for me.  My brand is very personal to my style and my journey, it’s authentic and now is the right time to share with Chinese girls.

select182iQubator: What do you have in your closet?

Alexandra: I have only dresses from my collection and lots of special vintage pieces, which I have been hoarding for years, even they don’t fit I can’t throw them away!

 iQubator: Only dresses?

Alexandra: I would say 99% are dresses, the odd skirt and blouse but I rarely wear!

iQubator: Even in winter?

Alexandra: Yes (laughs). Of course coats for winter though!  I haven’t worn Jeans since I was at university and I used to wear ‘Cheap Mondays’ the days of being super skinny!

iQubator: What do you carry with you all the time?

Alexandra: Lipstick. I always have my red lipstick it completes my look.   Apart from that nothing particularly out of the ordinary!

iQubator: So your red lipstick is your favourite piece?

Alexandra: Generally I wear only MAC, I have a new one from them which is called ‘Retro matte’

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iQubator: If you were a colour, what would it be and why?

Alexandra: Probably green.  There are lots of different shades of green, which I like to wear and it works well with white collars.

iQubator: What are your upcoming projects or plans?

Alexandra: At the moment I am shaping up my brand and will launch a new name soon.  I came to Shanghai with the first priority to set up the store and this became the platform to sell my collections and understand Chinese customer.  We have been here almost two years now, I have learnt a lot and now ready to take my brand to the next level. I plan to develop as an independant lifestyle brand

iQubator: Are you more focused on having physical stores or online shops?

Alexandra: Online is naturally important here but I would also like physical stores as I want customers to understand the brand from walking into our stores and build an emotional connection

iQubator: Was it hard for you to find this store in the beginning?

Alexandra:  Before we physically settled we did a few pop ups, the last one before we found this space was in XTD which we did for 3 months and was great exposure.  Here a friend introduced us to this location.  We were toying with should we set up on the street front or a lane house.  As this is a really great space we took it and decided we have to work a lot harder on the marketing side.  Its still very central and even we are in the lane, it’s a beautiful lane, which attracts a lot of people and tourists.

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iQubator: Do you have more Chinese customers than foreign customers?

Alexandra: 80% is Chinese, we have a lot from different parts of China also many Taiwanese and Hong Kong

iQubator: So do you manufacture in China?

Alexandra:  Yes only China – I have some good connnections from my previous job, which I co-operate with and a tailor locally to help with small quantities.

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iQubator:  How is your average pricing?

Alexandra: Prices range from 600 – 2000 for wool coats

iQubator: Do you have some peak seasons, where you do sell more than usually?

Alexandra: I generally find A/W very good and as soon as the sun comes out summer dresses are snapped up

iQubator: Where do you usually advertise?

Alexandra:  Now we have our official WeChat account, this is the biggest channel for advertising.  Word of mouth is also very good and magazines

 

We thank Alexandra for sharing her story with us.

 

Client Highlight: NPS Shoes

NPS Shoes is an independent, family-run business manufacturing hand-made Goodyear-welted footwear in the county of Northamptonshire, England.

Established in 1881, they have a proud and distinguished heritage in footwear manufacturing. Today they specialize in manufacturing both men’s and lady’s Goodyear Welted boots and shoes 100% Made In England. These are produced on behalf of brands and wholesalers alongside their own brands: Solovair Classic, Heritage and Country.

In 1881, five men banded together to form a co-operative in the village of Wollaston called the Northamptonshire Productive Society (NPS) Shoes Ltd. Luck was with them from the outset as they managed to secure an order for army boots from the Government, an order which would sustain them for the first year. As industrialization spread through England during the late nineteenth Century, demand domestically and abroad for high-quality boots steadily increased. Accordingly, NPS enjoyed rapid growth. NPS moved into private family ownership in 2006 but has continued to maintain its independence and high-quality standards which have secured a reputation with retailers and discerning customers as a premium product.

NPS continue to remain true to their ideals, combining over 130 years of tradition, the latest technology and materials, in order to produce high quality footwear. To maintain this undisputed quality, the products will always be Made in England from start to finish.

For more information, please visit their main website at www.nps-solovair.co.uk or contact them in either English or Chinese: sales@nps-solovair.co.uk

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9 Steps to Setting up a Business in China

First step is to understand China and that it is not just one market. Learn about China, but don’t think a book about “how to do business in China” will ever be enough. China is the country of contrasts where almost any answer can be as correct as its opposite

Buy a market report or hire a consulting company. Although if done in large enough extent this can offer good insights, it is often extremely expensive and the answers still very theoretical. To save both money and time, it is recommended to jump to step 3 directly.

Start up a company in HK and get a virtual office in China (phone number and address). Companies like Regus or Servcorp offer this, and new companies like iQubator complement these services with virtual assistant services depending on your needs.

Move to China, send a representative over or hire someone local in China to do the required research. This is often much cheaper than doing it from overseas because of the cost of living and salaries and it also offers a much better insight. This can be done either the traditional way  through local consulting companies and serviced offices, or through one-stop-shops companies that offer you toolboxes to do it yourself. An example is the HK and Shanghai based iQubator that offers an incubation-like service.

Build your guanxi (business network) in China and get a deeper understanding. These things are recommended to be done before starting up a company. IQubator offers all tools needed for this from office solutions, virtual offices, virtual assistants to recruitment, hiring, visa services, HR, accounting and local invoicing. Basically everything you need to start up directly.

Since 2010 it is possible to receive payments online through cross-border payment systems such as Alipay, Tenpay, 99bill and others. iQubator can help translating the website, adapt it to the market and integrate the payment systems in it. Together with the local representative you have a fully operational business in China that you can use to try out the market and further develop your network.

After about 3-6 months of research, network development and trials it is time to incorporate the company. Many people think a Representative Office so called Rep Office or RO is the first step. Actually, through tool-box companies, or Business Support Offices, you get much more than a RO can offer at lower cost and low risk, since you can cancel the contract at any time. The best way to go is a WFOE, Wholly Foreign Owned Enterprise.

Choose your registration agent. This can either be the company that you have conducted theresearch and trials with, or hire more people through the company to assist you. Normal cost for a WFOE registration ranges from 5,000 Euro for a consulting company to 15,000 Euro for a manufacturing company. The minimum investment needed also varies between 50,000 Euro to 1 Million Euro, both depending on the type of business license but also depending on what other licenses you would like to apply for later on. You just need to pay in 20% of the capital during the registration, you get up to 2 years to pay in the rest. An important thing to keep in mind is that it takes 3-6 months to register a company (compared to 1-7 days in HK) and it takes even longer to close it down. Be therefore sure before starting such a venture and rather stay longer in the incubator than taking unnecessary risks.

Once your company is registered and you have your own offices, you should be counting on having at least 3-5 employees, but you can still outsource the operational services such as HR and Accounting for a monthly fee. When you receive your business license you can officially begin business in China in your own name. You do though still need to wait a while for your tax license and special accounting computer and invoice machine from the government before you can issue Fapiao (tax invoice). The fapiao is often the main reason to choose a business support office that also can help you with these kind of issues, since most local businesses will not wish to do business with you unless you can offer fapiao.

E-commerce is booming in China

China will never stop amazing the world with its numbers.

At the beginning of 2012, China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) issued a report claiming that in 2011, the user scale in China for online shopping increased to 194,000,000 in total, which is only 10% of the population of China, but nearly equal to the sum population of France, German and the United Kingdom. By the end of 2012 there were over 300 Million shoppers, 146 million mobile shoppers and 500 million social media users. 66% out of these 500 million users were in average following 8 brands each! The market size is expected to reach over 250 BILLION USD by end of 2013 or beginning of 2014. And the fashion market is already over closing up to 500 BILLION.

Luxury fashion brands doing ecommerce in China

China’s online sales of clothing were worth $50 billion in 2012, but only 41 percent of luxury fashion brands have any e-commerce offerings of their own. Furthermore, there’s an overall lack of commitment and direct involvement with a mere seven global couture brands selling directly to Chinese consumers from their own sites. That’s the stark summary presented in the new L2 Digital IQ Index: Fashion Supplement.

Digging deeper into the report, it shows some interesting e-commerce trends in China, as well as other ways in which luxury fashion brands are failing to reach out to Chinese e-shoppers.

The most interesting trend is a shift away from consumer-to-consumer shopping when it comes to clothing. In 2011, 80 percent of China’s fashion sales came from amateur shopkeepers on Taobao, China’s biggest C2C site. But, in 2012, there’s a clear leap towards more official sources, such as brands’ virtual storefronts on sites like Tmall, or from flash sales sites like VIPshop or GlamourSales:

The truth is that with the fast development and popularization of Internet, China is expected to overtake the United States as the world’s largest e-Business market by 2014. The more and more affordable and widely available Internet across the country, the continuously rapid growth in the number of Chinese consumers shopping online, and the relatively low cost of logistics are all driving the expansion of e-Business, this booming industry in China.Luxury fashion brands doing ecommerce in China

You no longer need a company in China to start up your business, you can get paid directly through your website by integrating the Chinese cross-border payment systems such as Alipay or Tenpay. With a Chinese site placed just outside of the mainland, with payments in place and with office and representatives on the mainland in a matter of days, business in China is something for everyone and E-Commerce is the way to enter it!