4 Sept 2008
Style Statements(HKTDC Fashion - Fabrics & Accessories, Vol 01,2009)
Sharp China Buttons & Trimming Co Ltd
Buttons are much more than functional items at Sharp China Buttons and Trimming Co Ltd, which believes these products are special and so are the global customers buying them.
"Buttons are important," insists Sharp China Managing Director Sarina Wong, noting that they affect function and also make strong style statements. "Many clothing buyers may be interested not only in garment designs, but also in our buttons."
Indeed, she adds, buttons are getting bigger and more colourful. "They're becoming more outstanding, a greater fashion feature and a better selling point," Ms Wong observes.
All of which, she believes, makes Sharp China's button business even more important. "We create many different kinds and designs," Ms Wong explains. "Each day we see new things and hear new ideas."
This same commitment carries over to the company's customers. "They're not customers to us but good partners, and we help each other," Ms Wong maintains.
She believes that Sharp China's clients return once the company helps fulfil their requirements, no matter how difficult, ensuring both parties prosper together.
"We like to exchange ideas with our customers and do new things together," Ms Wong adds. "The market always demands new things."
This mutual-benefit approach has seen Sharp China flourish since it was established in 1996, to the point where the Hong Kong-based manufacturer and exporter currently operates a 300-worker factory in Dongguan on the Chinese mainland.
Each month, Sharp China produces millions of buttons and accessories like buckles, zipper pullers, snap fasteners, rivets, eyelets, patches, decorative metal plates and key chains. "Our products have a smaller value than garments, so we need high volumes and hard work," Ms Wong notes.
A smaller production plant in Hong Kong makes product samples. "We have experienced people there for difficult designs and urgent orders," Ms Wong explains. "They also train our engineers on the Chinese mainland."
Ultimately, she says, the demand for buttons follows fashion cycles. "Sometimes our customers want plastic buttons, sometimes they want wooden ones," Ms Wong remarks.
Recently, she has noticed that Sharp China's customers have favoured metal buttons that can be recycled. "More and more customers are asking us to use recyclable materials," Ms Wong says.
"We recommend less electroplating because that can also damage the environment."
Typically created from customers' designs, the buttons appear in many colours and shapes and often show images, words or logos.
Some are tiny - less than 7mm in diameter - bigger versions exceed 40mm, but Sharp China takes them all in its stride. "We're strong at helping with the button designs," Ms Wong insists. "Our engineers have lots of experience."
These core skills are backed by the mainland factory, which handles the stamping, die-casting, plastic injection and even hand work.
"Stamping makes round buttons, while die-casting produces all kinds of shapes," Ms Wong explains. "However, many customers also like enamel colours and epoxy effects, which allows more colours but means working by hand."
Brass, alloy, iron, stainless steel, aluminum, plastic, wood and even shell make suitable raw materials, with Korea, Japan or the Chinese mainland prime sourcing centres for raw materials.
"If needed, we have subcontracting factories to help with extra items," Ms Wong adds. "We always try to complete whatever a customer requests."
All orders are carefully quality-checked before shipping. "Hong Kong's a good location for shipping everywhere," Ms Wong notes. "We can serve the leading brands by distributing buttons directly to their factories in different countries."
Quality hinges on a button's look and feel, but Sharp China takes quality control a stage further by advising its customers on how best to affix the buttons.
"Even our sales people are well trained to answer questions, including technical ones," Ms Wong says. "Right from the beginning, we try to avoid every mistake."
Many of Sharp China's buttons appear ultimately on jeans, despite the growing popularity of zippers. "Of course, we'd like our customers to use more buttons," Ms Wong says, noting that buttons and zippers have different functions. "Zippers work faster, but buttons make a bigger fashion statement."
Sharp China's customers come from "every country", she says, citing the US, Germany, France, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and China as leading markets.
"Many customers have dealt with us for more than 10 years," Ms Wong proudly proclaims. "We make what they need, ensure high quality and deliver on time."
Ultimately, she believes Sharp China's prospects look strong. "Everyone needs garments so we have no limits on where to supply our buttons and accessories," Ms Wong concludes. "We're ready to supply everyone - including more brand-name customers - because we can produce exactly what they need for every garment season."
Text By John Cairns
Sharp China Buttons and Trimming Co Ltd