“The Armani sourcing team came to Hong Kong and we were the last appointment on their schedule. However, when they saw our fabric showroom, they were so excited that they cancelled their flight and stayed an extra day to work with us,” said Estella Kwan (关德英), Managing Director at Mandarin Enterprises (International) Co., Ltd. (文华国际企业有限公司), telling Inside Fashion about a day when one of their VIP customers visited.
The company’s showroom is graced with photos of celebrities, including Samantha Sheffield Cameron, the wife of British Prime Minister David Cameron, and American First Lady Michelle Obama, wearing dresses made from Mandarin’s fabrics.
Mandarin was established in 1990’s by President William Chan (陈肇霖), one of the founders. The company focused on producing the finest woven silk fabrics. Educated at Japan’s Waseda University (早稻田大学), Mr. Chan had the vision to bring Japanese dyeing and finishing techniques to Hong Kong .
Investing in Expertise
“In the beginning, it wasn’t easy. We didn’t have the skill set in Hong Kong to make the best products. By then, everybody was thinking in a very short term way. I knew we could not survive if we took that approach. We need to be forward thinking and have a long term vision.”
Mr. Chan returned to Japan and spent four years to learn the Japanese method of silk dyeing and printing. “We paid a lot of money for the technology, but it was worth it. Over the past 20 years many companies have closed, but we are still here,” he said.
Adapting to changing market demands, Mandarin now provides fabrics made from a wider range of fibers including cotton and polyester.
The company has since added on garment manufacturing facilities and counts top international brands such as Burberry and Armani as its clients.
Managing Price in a Fluctuating Market
Maintaining prices is one of a mill’s biggest challenges. Mandarin’s financial strength and long-term relationship with customers has enabled work around this. “We finance the inventory [of greige material] and carry it in our warehouse for our key customers, so we are able to keep the price at a fix rate most of the time. We are one of the few companies can do that,” said Mr. Chan.
The Value of Quality Information
“Keeping up with market trends is a vital part of our business. Inside Fashion provides us with fabric, fiber and color information that is comprehensive yet easy to work with,” said Ms. Kwan, who has subscribed to Inside Fashion since 1996.
“The high quality of the information we get from Inside Fashion supports the high standards we set for our company,” she added.
“The people who work for you are the most important factor for the company to be success. We have a very good working relationship with all of our staff,” said Ms. Kwan. “We provide frequent training and share information among all senior staff.”
At Mandarin, senior staff members travel overseas to attend trade fairs, meet with clients and get a hands-on understanding of the market. “It is important for them to see what’s going on with their own eyes. They see the actual market instead of imagining the situation by reading about it or seeing photos online,” she said.
“From this they will understand why customers have strict requirement. One really needs to have the face-to-face communication to understand that.”