1 July 2003
Picture Frames/Albums(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 07,2003)
Handmade albums from Sun Products Mfg Ltd combine rough paper, dry leaves and flower petals to create a raw and natural look
Whether they are using wood, paper, or vinyl, manufacturers of photo frames and albums seem to have at least one thing in common - creation of products inspired by environmentally friendly themes, where the underlying aim is to complement a photo rather than overpower it.
Climax Paper Converters Ltd (CPC) has designed picture frames featuring natural colours, with the emphasis on earthy and golden tones, according to senior manager (product design and development) Chong Fat Chan.
"We base our colours on those currently used in fashion design," says Chan, explaining why the eight designers of this manufacturer of photo albums, paper stationery and giftware pore over fashion magazines. "In the next three months, we will be using brighter colours for the US market and pastel colours for Europe and Asia," he adds.
Every three months, CPC produces 60-75 new designs for each of its main markets. The result is a monthly turnover of about US$3.3m. Production takes place at the company's 106,000-square-metre factory in Xixiang on the Chinese mainland.
CPC is committed to producing "natural" products, with around 5% of its designs using environmentally friendly brown cloth paper. "For these designs, we try to minimise the printing process as it requires the use of a lot of heavy ink. We also keep the embossing process simple," says Chan. He adds that he sees this type of design increasing in the next few months.
In its drive to create natural designs Sun Products Mfg Ltd has turned to handmade paper, a type of material used by few manufacturers in this sector, according to director Matthew Ho.
Last year, this maker of photo albums and paper boxes introduced handmade paper designs. This year, it has added little extra touches such as fabrics glued onto albums. As for fabric, Sun's five designers invariably turn to linen. The flowers that predominate in Sun Products' designs are sunflowers and marigolds.
"Artificial flowers are easier for production but dried flowers look better, so we try to use them more," says Ho. Colours in Sun's designs are kept very light and soft, in keeping with its "natural" look.
The monthly production capacity of handmade paper and craft paper, Sun's other range, is 60 TEUs. Production takes place at a 100,000-square-foot, 700-worker factory in Shenzhen on the mainland. The minimum order is 1,200 pieces, and the delivery time is 30 days for buyers in major markets such as Europe and the US.
A company with products that emphasise its business philosophy, "We are born from nature", is Premiums Industrial Int'l Ltd. "Since commencing operations in 1998, we have prided ourselves on our understanding of wood," says merchandiser Jonathan Lee.
He adds that this is the secret behind the success of its "natural-looking" wooden photo frames, gifts and household desktop accessories. "Quality is very important with wood and so is the humidity," says Lee.
To achieve the right combination, Premiums sources pine, fir and birch wood from New Zealand, the Chinese mainland and Southeast Asia, while oak and pine come from the US and Canada.
According to Lee, finishing is an aspect that cannot be neglected. "We recently purchased several polishing, cutting and spray-painting machines from Europe and Taiwan," he notes. "We focus on natural finishing, with a matt polish to create the natural look," he says.
However, spray-painted finishing is important too, and accounts for about 30% of the four FEU containers produced monthly at Premiums' 33,000-square-metre factory in Shenzhen. Premiums' main markets are the UK, the US and Japan.
Another manufacturer looking at simple and natural designs is Nika Int'l Ltd. "That has always been our trend," says director Daniel Hui. "Our three designers produce around 40 new designs annually for the US market," he adds.
Hui is also quick to point out that while designs are simple, quality remains a top priority. "All products undergo four layers of wood sanding, which is more than many other manufacturers do," he claims.
Linden wood remains a popular choice for Nika. "Linden is good for laser engraving," says Hui. "However, recent price increases of 40-45% for this type of wood have forced us to widen our range," he adds. As a result, more pine designs reach the market.
By year-end, the company plans to open a 100,000-square-foot, 150-worker factory in Shanghai's suburbs. The existing 200,000-square-foot, 200-worker factory, in Shanghai's city centre, will continue operating.
"The addition of a new factory," says Hui, "was prompted not by demand but as an attempt to cut down on transportation charges." Given Shanghai's congested traffic network, such a strategy is easy to comprehend. Five-year-old Nika's wooden photo frames, boxes and mirrors satisfy the medium price market.
As buyers say, pictures simply look better in Hong Kong frames and albums.
WRITTEN BY TAMARA CHEUNG
Climax Paper Converters Ltd
2 On Yiu St, Siu Lek Yuen
Sha Tin, New Territories
Kwok Keung Metal Works Ltd
Rms 2903-07, Tower One
223 Hing Fong Rd
Kwai Chung, New Territories
Premiums Industrial Int'l Ltd
Rm B, 11/F
Mee On Ind Bldg
17-21 Kung Yip St
Kwai Chung, New Territories
Sun Ngai Mfy Ltd
Rm 29, 10/F
Thriving Ind Centre
26-38 Sha Tsui Rd
Tsuen Wan, New Territories
Sun Products Mfg Ltd
Aitken Vanson Centre
61 Hoi Yuen Rd
Kwun Tong, Kowloon
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