4 Sept 2008
Stepping Out(HKTDC Fashion - Fabrics & Accessories, Vol 01,2009)
Any sophisticated garment manufacturing hub needs an equally fully fledged sourcing centre for fashion accessories and Hong Kong is no exception.
Among the city's army of resourceful suppliers is Elite Step Ltd, which offers a myriad of haberdasheries from heat transfer items to polyester buttons, studs and buckles.
"Our boss started with buttons back in 1984 under the Winner Button Co Ltd company name and we diversified into heat-transfer products five years ago with Elite Step," says Manageress Bonnie Wong.
According to Ms Wong, the business is reaching new heights. "We have heat-transfer motifs made of foil, sequins, beading, rhinestones, studs and flocking that have proved popular on the fashion scene and are used on clothes as well as on accessories like bags," Ms Wong notes. "Now the foil motif is the hottest item, usually in gold and silver colours."
Elite Step works on motif patterns provided by customers and also creates its own designs to strut its creativity as well as its manufacturing capability.
As a result, the company keeps abreast of the latest trends in terms of products such as buttons, where darker tones like mocha, deep sea blue, dark green, black and plum are in for winter while the metallic element continues to be influential among imitation shell, horn and stone-grain patterns.
"The combination of polyester and metal takes centre stage, such as polyester button designs accented with metal eyelets, metal rim or metal insets," Ms Wong adds.
She notes that buttons remain perennially popular as decorative design elements and the sizes are usually big, with popular items about 60 lignes. "That's why some plastic buttons are electroplated to get a metallic look so that they are lighter in weight even if they are bigger in size."
Elite Step runs its own five-storey, 20,000-square-foot factory that employs 120 workers in Shenzhen, producing most of its output in-house apart from the offset printing element.
Ms Wong refers to the factory establishment in the 1990s as the company's milestone. "Instead of just supplying Hong Kong garment manufacturers, we were able to expand our capacity, lower our costs and venture into the export market."
However, Ms Wong admits that some of the advantages are fading these days as production costs on the mainland keep spiralling with inflation, rising oil prices and increasing labour costs.
Eventually, Elite Step will be left with no choice but to adjust its prices slightly. "We are thankful that our customers understand the situation and accept it as long as we can maintain our good quality and service," Ms Wong says.
In fact, she believes that it is precisely this good quality and service that has kept the company thriving all these years. "We do not want to compete on price so quality is of pivotal importance to us," Ms Wong stresses.
Elite Step begins by using high-quality materials, such as ink imported from the US and Europe and stones and sequins shipped from Korea. "Stringent quality controls are implemented during the entire manufacturing process," Ms Wong assures.
She notes that good-quality materials are essential to maintain product performance, and the company does not want to spoil the excellent reputation that it has built over the years.
"We are also willing to take responsibility for any problematic goods if it is our fault," Ms Wong reveals. "That's why we have established a very good relationship with our buyers and many of them have become our loyal customers."
The US is currently Elite Step's major market, taking more than 50% of sales, while other customers hail from India, Pakistan, Europe and Australia and include trading companies as well as clothes and accessories manufacturers.
Elite Step has expanded its business by taking part in various trade shows, not only those tailored for garment and fashion accessories but also for other products such as giftware.
In fact, the company has been manufacturing big beading with sand-blast effects and matt finishing, as well as polyresin pendants with silk-screen patterns, both of which are used as DIY accessories.
"These are some special projects which we have developed with our customers and we hope we can further expand our business scope in this direction," Ms Wong concludes.