29 June 2006
Crafting Straw(HKTDC Fashion - Leather Goods & Bags, Vol 03,2006)
Lap Sun Straw Products Mfy Ltd
|Lap Sun Straw Products Mfy Ltd crafts a wide range of colourful bags from wheat straw, paper straw, PP straw, corn husk, cotton and rayon|
Superb craftsmanship is still alive and well, thanks to a Hong Kong company that is using traditional hand-weaving techniques to produce stylish modern handbags.
"Our workers are very highly skilled," claims Lap Sun Straw Products Mfy Ltd merchandising manager Taft Lum, whose company manufactures an extensive range of woven and crocheted products at two factories on the mainland. "Our use of machines is very limited, and most things are done by hand."
Lap Sun has been in the business for more than 30 years, initially producing straw bags in a workshop in Hong Kong before setting up a small factory in Shenzhen in 1987.
Today the Hong Kong head office internationally markets the products of two large mainland factories - one in Dongguan and one in Qingdao - that together cover some 28,000 square metres and employ up to 400 workers at peak periods.
Lap Sun manufactures bags, hats, belts, baskets, mats and other woven and crocheted products made from wheat straw, paper straw, PP straw, corn husk, cotton, and rayon on both an OEM and OEM/ODM basis for customers all over the world.
"We have a three-man design team on the mainland, although they also come to Hong Kong and travel overseas to get ideas and inspiration," Lum explains. "Some customers will send us the designs, others ask for our self-designed items."
The company has built long-term relationships with customers in many different countries. "Around 80% of our business is in the US and Europe, but our products are also available in Japan, South America, Australia and South Africa - all over the world," Lum comments.
Production varies according to market demand and the complexity of the design. "Our northern mainland factory can make 100,000 pieces per month, while the southern plant can produce 80,000-100,000 items, but some styles are very complicated," observes Lum.
Lap Sun likes to be flexible about minimum orders, which depend partly on the complexity of designs and on the cost and availability of materials. "If there are no serious complications we are willing to produce orders of around 600-1,200 pieces, and there are no upper limits," Lum adds.
FOB prices for Lap Sun's goods also depend on various manufacturing issues, but simple bags start from about US$1 and can rise to more than US$10 per bag.
"We can offer a very competitive price for simple goods, but more complicated workmanship is obviously a little more expensive," Lum explains. "Extras such as leather trims and other, more high-end elements are also reflected in the price."
Orders can usually be delivered 60-75 days after order confirmation, but if a shipment is needed urgently Lap Sun will try to expedite the process.
Lap Sun's peak season lasts from September to March, as the colourful, natural look of the company's bags makes them perfect for spring or summer, with design, development and sample production occurring between May and August.
Lum is keen to point out that straw bags have come a long way since they were used purely for trips to the beach, and that the natural look no longer reflects a lack of sophistication.
"Now they are often more handbag styles, and accordingly more complicated," he observes, noting that women often take straw bags to work. "They are also built to last - we include a lot of reinforcement and the handles are very strong."
Even after more than three decades in the business Lap Sun keeps moving forward, diversifying its product range and upgrading its quality with ISO 9001 certification last year.
Not surprisingly, Lap Sun is keen to develop its brand name in the near future even though it manufactures mostly for customer brands. "It needs time, effort and capital investment, so it's a long-term plan and we are still developing the concept," Lam admits.
"We also want to expand into other categories, doing more baskets, household items and fashion accessories - the workmanship is the same, but it's a long process and we need time to establish our image."
WRITTEN BY ROBERT PIERCE
Lap Sun Straw Products Mfy Ltd
Flats D & E, 13/F, Phase 1,
Kwun Tong Industrial Centre,
472-484 Kwun Tong Rd, Kwun Tong,
Kowloon, Hong Kong