Indie designer goes to Hong Kong 3

After my first day in Sham Shui Po, exhausted and barely making my way back to the MTR station, I knew that I missed out by not finding any trims at all. Trust me, I got so much better at finding my way around by the second day. The first day, I was so overwhelmed that every corner led to a whole different street full of shops, that I wandered around aimlessly.

Anyhow, since I didn’t find any trims the first day, I emailed Erika again. The first day I figured out that most shops were in sections, or areas, so I asked Erika to point me in the direction of the trim section. She wrote:

Sure thing! The area can be a bit confusing, but I’ll try my best to point you in the right direction. Nam Cheung St is a main (divided) road that runs through Sham Shui Po district. Look for Apliu St and Yu Chau street (intersecting Nam Cheung St) and that will put you in the general area. You might need to circle the blocks a few times to find what you’re looking for, but most shops are in specific districts, so if you find one ribbon shop, you find them all. If you take the MTR (subway trains) they have a good map to guide you at both ends of the stations before you exit. My favorite fabric store in the area is tucked in a little stall on Tai Nan street (cross my fingers that’s right). Happy Shopping!

Armed with this knowledge, and my handy dandy enlarged MTR map that I made, I circled the area Erika referred me to. Determined not to get sidetracked, I exited the same MTR exit and headed up Yu Chau Street, to find Trim Land. Yes, I still got sidetracked but the good thing is that I made my way into a few shops that I marked on my map, but missed the first day (when I wandered aimlessly from street to street). And, on the second day, I had my business cards (referred to as name cards here). It’s so great having a business card, it saves you from having to say a lot. You just hand your card over when you’re ready to ask questions. That way, you’ve established that you’re a wholesale customer (many shops will cut some yardage for retail sales, especially trims). One tip, have your country printed on your business cards. It’s not common for us to do so, but it really helps, because otherwise you end up writing USA on your cards (like me).

I finally made my way up to Trim Land (as I have named it) and found myself amidst more “candy stores.” Ribbons, laces, more ribbons, and tons of other stuff as far as the eye can see. Many trim shops will cut yardage on the spot, for samples, more yardage and they retrieve it from their warehouse in 10-15 minutes. The one thing I love about the area is that everyone is so gracious and nice and thanks you for even the smallest purchase. I can only imagine how it would be to purchase yardage on the spot. It’s nothing like what us DEs are used to dealing with here in the USA. They would make the time to service even my small requests for 10-20 meters of trims to take with me for sampling purposes.

Trim stores don’t have header cards. Some have color cards for certain types of trips (ribbons, tapes, etc.). Other than that, the way it works is that you cut small sample pieces and tape them to letterhead and write the article/item numbers. Some shops will let you cut by yourself, others prefer to assist you. You often can make your own sheets up and then hand over your business card and the sheet, when you need to discuss pricing, fiber content, and minimums. The minimums aren’t high. Usually 50 meters and up for many items. Some come on a pre-measured roll and the minimum is one roll, it’s just like what we’re used to at home. You can always get sample yardage on the spot, though different shops have different sampling policies.

Trim Land is expansive, later I will post about my adventures into the worlds of buttons, zippers and metal hardware. Enjoy the photos, keeping in mind that even though I show you one shop, there are dozens of similar shops. One last thing. My first day in Sham Shui Po, I noticed a lot of redundancy. What I know now is that many companies have multiple shops in the area, often 3-6.

Question: Do you have any suggestions on how to store headers? In the showrooms, they are on pegs

[Kathleen here: If you’re interested in sourcing in Hong Kong, regular visitors of Fashion-Incubator (“Fashincs”) are planning a trip. See the thread in the forum. If you post to the thread, you’ll automatically be emailed whenever the thread is updated. We’re shooting for spring, possibly late March 2008. Miracle hasn’t discussed costs yet but her trip was half what I thought it would cost.]

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  1. J C Sprowls says:

    MW says: The one thing I love about the area is that everyone is so gracious and nice and thanks you for even the smallest purchase. I can only imagine how it would be to purchase yardage on the spot. It’s nothing like what us DEs are used to dealing with here in the USA. They would make the time to service even my small requests for 10-20 meters of trims to take with me for sampling purposes.

    This is the crux of why I express frustration with conventional retail fabric stores. When I was a kid, this was the exact practice of the jobbers that used to be located in Pittsburgh.

    As a kid, I used to ride rolls of fabric like a hobby horse. As I got older (say, 15) I would shimmie up the shelves to locate the rolls I wanted lengths from – some the jobber didn’t know existed.

    It was very easy for a designer or manufacturer to source all their product development needs within a span of several blocks. I hear that it’s equally as easy in the NY garment district – though, I have no first-hand experience, yet.

    You’re right, though. As a small business sourcing remotely, it’s P*A*I*N*F*U*L. I’ve spent the majority of this year on that very activity. I’ve found more about products I don’t plan to make; but, there’s always someone else who needs the information, so I don’t mind the time spent. The problem is, every single one of us is doing the same thing – whatta waste!

    Coming back to the open question of how to store headers. I’m working on that, this weekend. I got a lovely book of headers from Security Textile which will serve as my inspiration. I’m designing header cards and a system of 3-ring binders, so everything is uniform (key!).

    The header card will contain information on: the source of the goods, content, price per yard, etc. I also plan to include testing results (where known) and other details. This binder system will cross-reference to an inventory tracking system as well as the sourcing directory.

    Over time, I’ll refine the manual system, then begin shopping for a virutal solution – or, commission one to be built.

  2. Kathleen says:

    The only idea I have to store headers is if the header card is large enough, to punch a hole with the bunny punch and hang them in clumps (organized) on pattern hooks.

  3. Karen C says:

    I like KF’s suggestion of hanging headers on pattern hooks. I’ve actually used skirt/pant compression hangers, which hangs about 3-4. Haven’t found the perfect system.

    And just thinking about trim/button/zipper shopping in a place like that just puts me in a dream world. I’m with J–getting closer and closer to knowing exactly what I don’t want. Still haven’t found a fabric I would like to use for 1-2 seasons for just a black pant. It’s so frustrating.

  4. Angela says:

    I have found a few things fron Hong Kong based companies that I have wanted to buy. Arranging payment has been difficult though. You generally have to do a wire trasfer which is a $50.00 fee. Other companies want me to send cash in the mail (this is illegal). If anyone has found out a good system of arranging payment to Hong Kong please let me know. I suggested Pay pal but they had not heard of it and don’t accept credit cards.

  5. MW says:

    Other companies want me to send cash in the mail (this is illegal).

    In which country/ies is it illegal to send cash in the mail?

    Unfortunately, if you cannot arrange a bank wire or western union money transfer, you’re out of luck. PayPal’s withdrawal requirements on foreign accounts makes it hard for companies to accept payment that way. Not all banks charge $50 for a foreign wire transfer.

  6. Big Irv says:

    I’d feel kind of leery if a vendor asked me to send cash.

    Some Asian suppliers will take credit cards, but are not shy to ask you to pay the credit card company fee which includes a internatonal processing fee.

    Our TT or wire transfer fees we incur usually cost $20.00-$30.00 and many US banks are in that neighbourhood. Aside, the is the fastest, quickest, safest way to pay overseas vendors (and CDN ones too). You can also check online when the payment is received by the vendor and provides a solid payment record.

    Didn’t someone in an earlier post say to stay clear of overseas vendors using Paypal. The fact your supplier overseas has a legit bank account is a good sign.

  7. To my knowledge, it’s not illegal to send cash in the mail… just stupid.
    1) The cash could get stolen en route.
    2) The recipient could claim it got stolen en route.

    Some scam artists ask to be paid in cash by courier to avoid involving the US Postal Service and the associated legal consequences.

  8. J C Sprowls says:

    Mailing cash is not illegal – it’s just imprudent. You have no proof or recourse that it has arrived with the intended party.

    That said, I don’t understand why paying a wire fee is unappealing. As a buyer, you would want your volumes high enough to justify the fee and then factor the expense across the cost of materials – just like you would do with the shipping expense.

    When I order fabrics from abroad, I almost always pay using a credit card. But, most EU companies are set up that way. The exchange fee is charged to my account – the Vendor has a fee, too (I factor those into my materials costs). There have been few situations where I’ve been asked to send a wire, which I’ve never minded. The most inconvenient part is a special trip to the counter to initiate the wire.

  9. E.Sy says:

    Not all vendors there will take credit cards. Many are not setup for them because of fees and tax evasion purposes.

    It really depends on often you plan on purchasing from them and transaction amounts.

    Most buyers normally use bank transfer or western union when not purchasing in-person.

    If you plan to do frequent purchases with a particular vendor, I have found the following very useful and no fees:

    Setup an new personal bank account at your Bank of America or Citibank in the USA. Send the ATM card you get for the account to the vendor in Hong Kong. When the supplier recieves it, tell them to call you for the pin number. Deposit money into the account each time you make a purchase order. There are several BofA and Citibank in Hong Kong and you are not charged service fees. Only downside is that the max you can usually take out is $600 per day. (Go to your BofA banch and tell them you want to up your limit to $1000 per day). Also make sure to tell your bank that you plan to use the ATM card in Hong Kong and not to flag it as overseas fraud. If you want an atm card for yourself, add an additonal person to the bank account.

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