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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.

Interview with the designer Fernanda Sung

A few weeks ago, iQubator went to a design market in Shanghai. There, we had the luck to meet the lovely Fernanda Sung, a beautiful, young lady from Brazil. She is a jewelry designer and is quite new to the Chinese market. Not only her cheerful appearance but also her gorgeous designs were standing out in the crowd. We had to ask her for an interview and she was so kind to accept it. This week’s designer talk with Fernanda Sung.

iQubator: First of all thank you Fernanda for coming today! So let’s start with the first question, and let’s start from the beginning.  When did you start to design your own jewelry?

Fernanda: I started designing jewelry when I was still in Brazil. I loved accessories since fernanda products 5I was a kid, and I really liked to work with my hands so I was always doing this kind of stuff. Professionally, during college I majored in accessories and jewelry design. In the beginning I had two other business partners which were my colleagues so we came up with a brand and started to work with a supplier and tried to understand the industry a little bit. We were working together for about 1 or 2 years and then afterwards, when we graduated, I moved to Italy to study packaging design and when I moved back to Brazil, I set up my own brand. After a while, I moved to China to study Chinese. I was working a full-time design related job, but I wanted to go back to my passion so I quit my job and officially launched my own brand.  So I guess on and off, I have been designing jewelry for about 8 years.

 

iQubator: What brought you to design?

Fernanda:  Since I was a kid, I liked drawing and crafts in general, so I’ve been always doing this kind of stuff. I heard about this jewelry design course when I was applying for college and I decided to just go for it. From there on, I fell in love with designing. Most of the times, I do fashion oriented jewelries but back in Brazil, I used to have more diverse products so I work with local communities  doing crafts and more conceptual. I think a little part of me have always loved design and creative, and there are just so many possibilities. It’s not just about the jewelry, it’s about everything. It’s about the way you see things and present them.

 

iQubator: Where do you draw your inspirations from?

Fernanda: I guess most of my inspirations come from nature, from Brazil. I think especially for jewelry. I also really like art deco so I had a collection that is in Brazil that was inspired by art deco. I guess for the most part it comes from growing up in Brazil and the closeness that I’ve always experienced with Brazil. I want my collections to send out happy messages that are derived from the nature of the planet and humanity.

iQubator: How do you think your brand fits in the Chinese market?fernanda products 4

Fernanda: Oh wow that’s a tough one. I think adapting is the key. In Brazil, people wear really big pieces and that’s not really what goes on in China; jewelries here are usually very delicate. But one thing I like about the Chinese market is that there so are many people and different styles in China so there’s potential for everything. I’ve been trying to make some products little bit smaller than what they would be in Brazil, add a bit more delicacy in them. Another good thing is that Chinese consumers are quite adaptive as well. Sometimes people want to have a big piece or something that brightens up their day. So in the Chinese market, it’s a constantly learning and changing process.

iQubator: Here’s a more personal question; what do you have in your closet?

Fernanda: Normally, I like to wear a lot of skirts and dresses. My summer clothes are usually very colorful, so I have all these flowery dresses and just colorful pieces. And during the winter I wear all black because it’s so easy, it fits the season and I think it also goes really well with my designs; I try to wear my own design as often as possible. I like to match bright shoes, with a basic outfit. If I have something colorful it also pops comparing to the black color.

fernanda products 3iQubator: Among your collections, what is your favorite piece and why?

Fernanda: Haha it’s hard to pick a favorite one. Currently I really love my new collection, especially the ones with tassels because I love the colors. It’s a very trendy look at the moment.

The previous collection that I really love was my art deco collection that I made in Brazil. They were bigger pieces, there was an onyx stone and they were all gold coated, so it was like black and gold. They were beautiful and it was really a nice experience to work with them because in Brazil I used to have a little different brand purpose than in China. It was nice to have that collection, that is a little bit more special and it’s also not an absurd price for what it is.

iQubator: Are you planning to go back to Brazil in the future?

Fernanda: I don’t think I will live in China forever. Don’t get me wrong, I love China.  But I think the place I’m going to settle down eventually is going to be Brazil since I have my friends and family there. But I actually really like Shanghai so I just want to stay here for some time. I don’t have any plans to go back now. I’m starting my brand here and I’m very excited about where it will go. I want to settle down everything here first, and eventually I will go back to Brazil. It’s a place close to my heart.

iQubator: How do you explain your style?

Fernanda: For the jewelry I like to say they are pieces that whimsical, bright, and happy. And this also relates to my personal style. I always like to make people smile. I like to believe if you’re nice to people, you just smile to them and brighten up their day, the energy passes on forever. Everybody has their bad days and I’ve probably not been nice to someone, but I try to keep it positive and I try to make my pieces also about that. So I would say a little bit whimsical and playful sometimes they have a smart twist, like those animal earrings, that the tails are also the hooks.

I was in China and I was watching this documentary, it was a festival for Brazilian fernanda products 4documentaries and one of the women who was talking, was wearing one of my earrings! And I don’t even know her. It’s just really amazing to know there’s a bunch of people who are going to buy your product and they’re really going to wear it. Because sometimes it’s just an impulse but I want people to wear it every day and become their favorite piece and feel special when they have it. The style is also about that, it’s about feeling special.

iQubator: If you want customers to reach you how should they contact you?

Fernanda: I’m building my website, I’m selling into shops in Shanghai, one of them is called “Hey Jewel”, they are in Huating Lu near Huaihai Lu. They are a jewelry boutique so they sell jewelries from designers from all over the world. They also have a Taobao shop so anyone can find my pieces online. They’re selling the newest collection right now and the animal collection. The animal collection will probably be in other shops soon too because everybody just loves it. So I have these two shops, also people that I meet I add them on Wechat. That’s why I am going to open a Wechat shop as well. So they can reach me through either my website or wechat, or they can find my collections in those two shops as well.

fernanda products 1iQubator: Do you design from home or do you have a studio?

Fernanda: I always make the first piece in my home studio. I make the mother mold by hand and I make it on my own. I like to make the first piece by hand; it adds something special and since the pieces are very organic I don’t like doing it on computer.

I make the first piece and then I have a supplier in Shanghai and they take a mold and reproduce what I’m doing. I also have a few pieces that are 100% handmade. This one, just on production took maybe 2 hours. And you might think, okay, it’s a ring, 2 hours it’s not so much, but if you think there are so many and you have to solder and cut and send it. There are a lot of processes involved. And sometimes I just have to leave the product in salt water and that also takes some time. I prefer to work with my manufacturers; they also guarantee that every piece is going to be the same. And of course I’m very strict about quality control.

iQubator: Was it difficult in the beginning when you came to Shanghai?

Fernanda: Yes. Actually, like I said, I started my brand here after I’d been here for a while but I think it’s always hard to start up a brand even in your own city, your own country and if you’re abroad it’s even more difficult. My Chinese is basic, I can speak. I speak Chinese to the suppliers but there are still some parts of the production where you have to get it right. It’s about everything, my network here is not as good as it was in Brazil, my knowledge and my network with the suppliers is not as good as in Brazil, the words itself, how to explain is different.

It’s definitely a challenge but I’m also enjoying it. Shanghai is a very business oriented city so once you put yourself in this position that you want to make it work, things happen really fast.

iQubator: So we met at the design market, is that how you usually advertise?

Fernanda: Yes, I went on holidays and came back from Brazil. I spent almost 2 months there. So I came back at the end of March and since then I’ve been trying to apply to more and more markets. It’s really nice to get to know people because it’s not just clients, people that go there to buy immediately but there’s also a lot of interesting people that are just curious, maybe they work at a magazine, maybe they are like you (iQubator). It’s really nice. I’m trying to do more and more of this kind of markets to get to meet more people.

iQubator: Do you advertise through other channels as well?

Fernanda: I’m starting to work with social media. But it’s a learning process.

iQubator: If you were a color, what would you be?

Fernanda: Oh god, I don’t know. I never had an answer for ‘what’s your favorite color?’ because it depends. But this time I will choose green, a bluish green kind of similar to turquoise. I also chose it for because it’s a bright, happy and positive color.

iQubator: What are your upcoming projects and plans?

Fernanda: I’m looking forward to experiment with other materials and silver.  Like I have this collection that is not only silver, there are these tassels. Actually in China there are so many interesting materials to work with and I think my next project will be a new jewelry collection with some other material, and silver of course but just trying to explore more varieties. I’m excited.

 

 

 

Fashion Hub in China

sfwChina has a fashion market which is full of opportunities.

The Chinese fashion industry is set to become the world’s second largest fashion market by 2020 and will account for an estimated 30% of the global fashion market’s growth over the next five years.

It makes a major contribution to the Chinese economy and the fashion market is a US$90 billion industry. The annual growth rate of fashion & textile industry was 12.5% in 2007 and as the foremost city in Asia, Shanghai acts as an international hub for trade, finance, transport, and fashion. It is the reigning fashion capital of Asia, ranking 10th worldwide, above both Tokyo and Hong Kong [Mode Shanghai 2010].

 

Shanghai’s contemporary fashion design and our impressions of its Fashion Weeksfw2

With more and more young designers and models, Shanghai Fashion Week was originally aiming to build up an international professional platform, to attract top design talents from all over the world. It is held twice every year in Shanghai, one in April and one in October. Shanghai Fashion Week also serves as a platform for designers that are aiming at the Chinese market and it acts as an indirect sales channel since it attracts many buyers during the event. The iQubator team attended some of the shows during this past season of SHFW and there were some really unique and breath-taking designs.

However, different from the Fashion Weeks held in Europe, it seems that Shanghai Fashion Week is more focused on Chinese designers. While these Chinese designers get to showcase their new collections and shine under the spotlight, there are many foreign designers based in China that are hoping to bring a flare of the exotic flavour to the local fashion scene.

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.