11 Jan 2007
Fashion Forecast(HKTDC Fashion - Leather Goods & Bags, Vol 01,2007)
Jibsen Industrial Ltd
|Jibsen Industrial Ltd is one of Hong Kong's biggest manufacturers of ladies' fashion handbags|
Fashionistas be warned - those jumbo handbags that were all the rage last year are on the way out and more feminine, medium-size fashion handbags will be this year's essential accessory.
So says Edison So, director and general manager of one of Hong Kong's biggest makers of ladies' fashion handbags and premium bags, Jibsen Industrial Ltd.
"We're already taking orders for smaller, 12-15 inch diameter bags," he says, adding that big bags began coming in three years ago and the style simply exploded. "There are only two ways sizes can go - bigger or smaller - and now the cycle's turning again."
So keeps his finger on the international fashion pulse through a canny combination of information technology and close ties with his counterparts in New York, Milan, Paris and London.
He also leans heavily on feedback from key international customers, with whom Jibsen has virtual partnerships. "Partners tell the whole story, especially why a particular bag is in demand, and keep you fully in the picture - which is invaluable when it comes to planning and production," So explains. "We also work closely with our New York partner's talented design team, who are on the spot to sniff out what could be the next big craze."
Jibsen's exhaustive research, which even extends to having the latest fashion magazines hand-delivered to Hong Kong, is both extensive and expensive but absolutely necessary to keep ahead in the fickle field of fashion.
"We never stop trying out new ideas - every day 100 of the 1,000 workers in our factory in Dongguan on the Chinese mainland are making new samples as we search for the exciting new bag style that will keep us right up with the global pace-setters," So says.
He notes that Jibsen offers clients a line of ladies' handbags which is constantly updated to keep abreast of the latest fashion trends, while another series has been developed specially for promotional use. "Both product lines are meticulously designed to give high perceived value and to meet buyer price points," So assures.
This same combination of total dedication to client needs and an international network helped Jibsen beat off two bigger manufacturers to secure a breakthrough contract for 500,000 premium bags for a Caribbean cell-phone network.
"They also added 130,000 coordinated windcheaters to the order at the last minute, which was a one-off for us, but they wanted perfectly matching styles and colours so of course we obliged," So adds, noting that the entire order will fill 30 FEUs.
This impressive project is a fitting feather in the cap of a company that began operations as a trading company in the 1970s before transforming itself into a bag manufacturer in 1995.
"We started with a handful of employees in Hong Kong and 150-plus workers at a factory in Shenzhen on the mainland," So recalls. "Now the headquarters staff has grown to almost 40 - including a large R & D team - and we have a 250,000-square-foot factory in Dongguan."
Not content with these achievements, Jibsen is currently constructing the first phase of a new factory double that size at Wuzhou, just over the Guangdong border in Guangxi Province. "When the factory is completed, we will transfer our premium bag operations to Wuzhou, leaving Dongguan to concentrate on fashion handbags," So adds.
Together, both companies should be easily able to meet the needs of Jibsen's biggest customers in the US, Canada and Western Europe - particularly Germany, Italy and Spain.
"The latter market is a fast-emerging trendsetter in leather fashions," So notes, adding that sales extend to former Eastern Bloc countries like Russia, Poland and Hungary. "We also exhibit at Tokyo trade shows to strengthen our foothold in the Japan market, and are planning a full-scale sales drive in Australia."
Jibsen has a larger headquarters staff than rival bag manufacturers so it can constantly assess and sift market trends and react faster to sudden style changes.
"This makes our bags a little bit more expensive, but it puts us at the cutting-edge of the trendiest styles and that's what counts most," So insists.
WRITTEN BY GEOFFREY SOMERS
Jibsen Industrial Ltd