4 April 2005
Crazy Colours(HKTDC Fashion - Leather Goods & Bags, Vol 02,2005)
iBags began operations in 1985, and grew quickly to encompass 300 workers manufacturing bags in rented premises in Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland in 1987.
Today, the medium-sized company has a wholly owned factory in Dongguan, also on the mainland, and has nearly doubled the number of workers from two decades ago.
The firm's 500 staff currently produce 100,000 fashion-oriented bags a month, including elegant and casual handbags, which are shipped to major markets such as North America and Europe.
"Our designs are more suitable for Western markets because we've worked with them for so long, but this year more Asian countries such as Singapore and Japan are approaching us," Sin observes.
This broadening market scope reflects the company's steady sales increases since its inception, although the mid-1990s proved a turning point for what was originally an OEM operation.
That was when the firm dispensed with its Chinese name in favour of iBags Creations because it gave "the impression of something young, creative and energetic", Sin explains.
A new factory was also built in Dongguan to save on rent and exercise better quality control, while the last step was transforming itself from an OEM to an ODM company.
Ninety per cent of iBags' production is now ODM, Sin says. "We have four or five freelance designers in Hong Kong and would like to hire more," she explains. "Every year we change all of our handbag designs."
This commitment to customer satisfaction demands keen observance of fashion trends, and Sin says that softer bags are currently in vogue, especially in Asia.
She notes that PU is "ideal" for replicating the feel of soft leather. "Right now, we're focusing more on PU," she adds. "We let our designers decide which fabric would be better."
The designs, which feature metal fittings and a number of inside compartments, target adult women 25 years and older who buy handbags to match their office wear.
"In Asia, consumers like a bag to have a lot of functions," Sin notes, adding that one particularly popular style is a PU pouch-style bag with a pull-tie closure and round metal handles.
The company's products are in the medium-price range, but prices depend on various factors such as the design, metal fittings and fabric. "We source our fabrics and metal fittings from Taiwan, Korea and the mainland," she adds.
According to Sin, iBags' major challenge comes from satisfying its customers' needs and pricing its goods competitively.
"When we develop a design, we never know if it is going to be a success," she admits. "The most difficult thing for us is to keep the quality high and the price low."
She acknowledges that iBags has proved so successful that it has begun researching the possibility of creating its own brand and is also considering whether to branch into other materials such as leather.
But, Sin says, iBags' immediate expansion plan is to do more of everything. "We want to increase the size of our factory, employ more designers and sell more bags," Sin declares. "We specialise in high quality and competitive prices and believe that will bring us even greater success in future."
WRITTEN BY ANDREA PAWLYNA
iBags Creations Int'l Co