19 April 2006
Divine Designs(HKTDC Gifts, Premium & Stationery, Vol 02,2006)
Wise Unicorn Industrial Ltd
|Wise Unicorn Industrial Ltd's perfect miniatures are inspired by leading museums such as The Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum in New York|
Visitors entering the Hong Kong headquarters of Wise Unicorn Industrial Ltd can't help but be dazzled by showroom after showroom of perfect miniatures of classical figures.
It's like stumbling into a mini-museum awash with treasures such as the Egypt Room, a showstopper with a smorgasbord of pharoahs, queens and other Egyptian figures and artifacts.
Three other showrooms overflow with still more surprises like Greek and Roman gods, traditional Chinese figures, fierce Japanese samurai, Teutonic knights, heroes of ancient myths and legends, Napoleon and his nemesis the Duke of Wellington.
The variety of the collections seems never-ending: cowboys and Indians, American Civil War soldiers, Norsemen and even flights of fantasy into a series of superbly crafted fairies and mermaids, minstrels and jesters.
The collections on display are worth millions of dollars but managing director Yvonne Kao says modestly: "We have some nice items here but our main factory over the border at Hui Yang gives a much broader picture of our range - it has 17 showrooms!"
Taiwan-born Kao is the creative inspiration behind the beautifully finished collections, which adorn many households in North America and Europe.
She haunts museums in world capitals, admiring old and new art treasures and collecting ideas for still more products. "My favourites include The Louvre Museum in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum in New York," Kao reveals.
Her musings often provide product ideas for a company that originated in Taiwan in 1985 as a producer of polyresin and pewter household decorative items before starting operations in 1990 with 200 workers at its first mainland factory in Huiyang.
Three years later Wise Unicorn relocated to its present 140,000-square-metre site in Huiyang, where it operates a model factory providing dormitories and cafeteria-style meals for 3,000 workers, as well as recreation facilities such as basketball, badminton and tennis courts, and a running track.
This workforce includes some 100 highly skilled designers and samplers, plus 54 sculptors and 20 experts in computer graphic design - all handpicked for their flair and imagination.
"We present innovative, sophisticated, handcrafted products, designed and manufactured in various materials such as polyresin, cold cast bronze, pewter, porcelain and ceramic, as well as mixed media products such as glass with pewter, polyresin with pewter, ceramic with polyresin and wood with polyresin," Kao explains. "All our products are manufactured to the highest standards, including ISO 9001, UL and UKAS."
Wise Unicorn, which has its own Veronese, Myths & Legends and Unicorn Studio trademarks, also provides OEM/ODM services for client ideas and brands from around the world. "Reliability, consistency and exceptional quality have always been our major focus, and this has earned the respect and trust of our clients," Kao insists.
She notes that more than 60 designers are involved in every facet of production - from sketch design and sculpting to moulding, colour and graphic design. "We have also launched a research department concentrating on technology and technique improvement to ensure outstanding quality and service for our clients," Kao adds.
Not surprisingly, given its tremendous success, Wise Unicorn faces a remorseless fight against copycats keen to capitalise on the company's creations.
"We are the first Chinese mainland operation to have successfully sued a French company that blatantly commissioned copies of 40 of our copyrighted figures," Kao claims.
Wise Unicorn took the company to court in Paris, won the case plus damages and also sued the mainland factory that made the figurines, but Kao admits it was a very expensive exercise.
"The plain fact is that copying products is a very profitable business for the cheats," Kao says. "We spend a fortune developing our ideas and perfecting our designs; they have no conscience or remorse about stealing them."
However, she has put all that behind her now and is eagerly seeking an order that will top the US$350,000 request she received for 600,000 small bear figurines. "That was a couple of years back...now we're ready, willing and able to handle bigger orders any time," Kao says confidently.
WRITTEN BY GEOFFREY SOMERS
Wise Unicorn Industrial Ltd