11 July 2005
Born To The Business(HKTDC Fashion - Leather Goods & Bags, Vol 03,2005)
Yick Fung Leatherware Fty Ltd
Today Chung and her brother Christopher run the OEM/ODM business together, handling design and business administration with the assistance of colleagues who understand both design and customer service.
"We started out with affordable leather products, such as patchwork leather bags which were very popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s," she explains. "Then fashions changed, and there was a trend at that end of the market towards PVC items and imitation leather."
That the company still makes some bags from patchwork leather - using a technique pioneered in the 1980s to re-use offcuts to interesting effect - reflects a long-standing preference for durable styles over fleeting fashions.
Yick Fung specialises in manufacturing bags with an extended life expectancy, not merely because they are durable but also because they have classic design qualities.
"Our style is elegant but not overstated - our customers like bags to be special but not too fancy," Chung claims. "We are quite closely involved in design - my brother, myself and the people handling the orders - because we know what customers need."
That is not to say, however, that Yick Fung ignores the wider world of fashion, as customers place orders as much as one year ahead and the company is already planning lines for mid-2006.
According to Chung, many of Yick Fung's clients depend on the company for design ideas, which means being able to anticipate market trends and react accordingly.
"We monitor fashions closely," she says, noting that her colleagues visit Europe twice a year and Yick Fung gets new ideas from those trips. "We're competitive because we develop new ideas every month, reflecting the fact that styles are always changing."
However, her more immediate preoccupation is the 2005 winter season line, which is already going into production. "PVC is the main material for winter, and bags are more soft-shaped with lots of metallic colours," Chung reveals. "Colour-wise there are a lot of purples, mustards, browns and natural tones."
Indeed, the company's two showrooms at its Tsuen Wan office offer a dazzling display of future fashions with more than 500 different bag styles showcased alongside a myriad of items ranging from key fobs to leather briefcases and wheeled luggage.
Yick Fung's design and customer service capabilities are ably supported by two factories in Dongguan and Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland, which boast 650 sewing machines and employ around 1,000 workers.
The company also has arrangements with other factories to handle work required by clients that falls outside Yick Fung's core expertise, such as wallets, briefcases and organisers.
"We're more specialised in ladies' bags and evening bags, but when you can do those, you can handle other things as well," Chung maintains. "We also subcontract some work if, for example, the customer wants a matching set of other items such as wallets coordinated with the bags to make a set."
Yick Fung uses PVC sourced on the mainland and in Taiwan and Korea, while its leather comes from Italy, Turkey, Pakistan and the mainland.
FOB prices range from US$2-6 each for minimum orders of 500-600 bags per style, delivered around 50 days after order confirmation to customers in Europe, South America, South Africa, Australia and Japan.
Chung says business is "healthy", and demand is growing for its medium-priced ladies' accessories. "Business is growing in the European market, and in South Africa we are selling to more shops and department stores," Chung says. "As these operations grow we may consider expanding our manufacturing operations, but it is sufficient for present needs."
Chung does not rule out the possibility of Yick Fung developing its own brands in future, nor does she have any regrets about joining the family firm. "It's interesting, and ladies are always going to need handbags," she concludes.
WRITTEN BY ROBERT PIERCE
Yick Fung Leatherware Fty Ltd