Features, HomePost, Outside the Bubble

Trendy International: A Passion for Fashion

I have always been interested in products and consumers. A couple of years after starting my career at BCG, I spent some time on a Leave-of‐Absence at Australian retailer Oroton, where I was lucky enough to have gained a really well-rounded perspective of the whole retail value chain. I was heavily involved in Oroton’s entry into Asia, and this coupled with the then steroidal growth of the Chinese retail and luxury market, made me deeply interested in testing the waters in China. I could see that it was an enormous market with significant growth potential, and for a Chinese immigrant like myself, the prospect of being back on home soil (although whether it really is home is another question altogether) drew some deep emotional connections.

Towards the end of semester 1 in RC, I began a very focused and highly networked search for summer. I set a few criteria very early on: I knew that I needed to go into the market either with an international company, or a large local company looking to globalize. That was where I was going to have the best fit, provide the most value, and also be compensated most on par with global standards. I also did not want anything that was already too big and bureaucratic in China – ideally I wanted an early stage entry into China, a turnaround, or a PEVC portfolio company so that there was plenty of growth,
and interaction with senior management early on. This helped me narrow my target list very quickly. I had my first meeting with my now CEO during winter break, and almost immediately I knew that this was the right thing.

We are part of Trendy International Group, a Chinese domestic retailer that houses the successful Chinese female fashion brand Ochirly, and the first Chinese apparel brand to receive L Capital investment (the investment arm of LVMH group). But our subsidiary was set up only last year. Led by a team of ex-
‐Nike veterans, our goal is to pursue new projects for the group, and act in many ways as a lab of excellence to disseminate global-standard cultural and process initiatives across the group.

It was almost the perfect set up – a small team with a startup vibe, but with highly experienced senior managers that I would be exposed to, encased within a global office, but all in the context of a Chinese company looking to globalize.

In fact, the office culture is one of the main reasons why I have decided to stay on past the summer – it has surpassed all of my expectations of a Chinese retail company (and in fact a retailer in any country). We are open, creative anddiverse (my colleagues range from Italians, to Japanese, to those from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and ethnically Chinese returnees from all regions, and come from sportswear, luxury, consulting, financial services..). Our official language is English, and our CEO believes in giving everyone a chance, as long as you are passionate about what we are doing. There is no pretentiousness, only meritocracy. For anyone who has experienced the fashion or luxury industry, you will know that this is absolutely not the typical case.

The other thing that I love about the company is its creativity, curiosity and the fact that it is constantly forward looking. For the summer I worked in marketing, reporting directly into the VP of marketing. We were in the very initial stages of a brand turnaround, and my job involved trying to
understand the roots of the brand – how it was influenced by art, music, film, design, the political environment… how it all came together and how the designer played with the various elements. We then used these to build an inspiration platform to re-launch the brand – what the brand was going to be rooted in, the implications of these for product design, in‐store environment, marketing, and how these will develop over time. We are going through a similar process now for a brand that we are developing in‐house, and for this new brand we have explored even further – we talk about founding elements such as making fashion and its craft more democratic, more accessible, closer to people, a new interaction model with customers, designers and artists alike, and a new online/offline inter-relationship.

So this is a quick snippet of my summer and last few months. I have now deferred EC and will rejoin sometime in the next couple of years. Of course not everything has been fascinating and glamorous, and in fact quite a few things have not progressed as expected. But as I write, I have just wrapped up a team day visiting the “coolest” Shanghai hangout spots with a local creative agency, meeting with KOLs of the local art and design scene, to get a feel for the vibe of the city. Tomorrow I am heading to a one of the biggest Dior exhibitions that has been held for some years, followed by a visit to the local fabric and tailoring market, where you can pick out your own cashmere and have it made to your specifications at less than $150. Shanghai is the new New York, and for the moment, I am loving being here.

November 18, 2013

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