With Hong Kong Fashion Week now in full swing many -- including ARTINFO China’s Belle Zhao -- have been asking where the local designers are? Well you can find some on the catwalk, but if you’re looking for something really new in menswear you might like to look online instead.
New menswear label Hill launched online just last month, but have already sold out their first production run. The label's tightly edited capsule collection of blazers, chinos and shorts in natural fibres offers a solution to the perennial problem posed by life in Hong Kong, how to stay suave in a city that never stops sweating.
Young designer Anthony Hill graduated with a degree in womenswear from the renowned London fashion factory Central Saint Martins, then worked around the U.K. capital for four years paying his dues in small boutiques and at labels like Arcadia. In 2006 looking for a change of scene he moved to Hong Kong. What he first feared was a “huge mistake” has five years later delivered him the perfect launching pad for his brand.
ARTINFO China spoke to Hill about setting up a business in Hong Kong, his ideal client and the pleasure of “learning something new everyday.”
You’re selling solely online and through personal contacts. How has the process been without the traditional support of retail outlets?
It has been pretty amazing so far. Our opening trunk show was a great success and there has been a lot of word of mouth. Facebook has been a massive help, along with other social networking sites. The creative industry here in Hong Kong is very small and everyone has been very helpful. Most of my friends own their own businesses so they have been able to guide me and give me a hand. First and foremost I am a fashion designer so the business side has been a massive learning curve for me. It is like going back to school. Learning something new everyday has been wonderful.
How has it been setting up a business in Hong Kong specifically?
I think it is definitely a unique process here. I think it has been a lot easier than if I was elsewhere. I read somewhere that Hong Kong is the fourth easiest place to set up your own company in the world.
Did you have a specific buyer in mind throughout the design process?
We very much thought of a person that was creative. Not necessarily someone working in the creative industry, but they are creative in the way that they dress. They like to put clothes together themselves rather then being told what to wear through trends; and they are someone that would travel a lot so they want something that is comfortable but also smart.
Do you see your line as a basics line where you have core pieces that you can switch around?
Essentially yes, what we are going to do is have three seasons a year. We are going to have a spring/summer and fall/winter season as well as a trans-seasonal season. But generally these are not trend focused so clients can come back to us in 2 years time and we will have that same stock. We are going to looking into different cuts and different materials as well as looking towards branching into accessories to expand the lines. We want to have it so that you can buy one stand alone item or buy many and put them together. We wanted everything to be very versatile so you could wear it smart or you could wear it casual.
Where do you source all your materials?
All the materials come from China. I personally source them from manufacturers that have their offices in Hong Kong. I have been able to find really great suppliers. China is famous for its mass production but there are a lot of factories that you go to and place a minimum order.
Is it easy to find skilled pattern makers in this area?
I do all the designs and the measurements and then I work together with the pattern maker. We had to go through a lot of pattern makers and manufactures before we found the right one for us. They are a very small and family-owned factory. They are very specific and particular about who they will hire which is why they are so small. They will only hire the best. Because of this we were able to make a deal to work and grow together as businesses.
Why is it so important to work with the best?
Because right now our blazers are 90% hand stitched. We do this because my first motivation was that I wanted to make something beautiful. That is why I went into design in the first place. There are so many badly made garments out there and I just want to make something that was going to be absolutely beautiful. Something wearable that men wanted to buy.
It is all about high quality. When we started out and we looked at other companies and looked how they started out. We looked at Louis Vuitton for example. They started out doing luggage way back when. They just focused on one or two products and mastered them. So we did that, we just chose a couple of items and said “let’s make these as best we can.”
Do you think you will remain based in Hong Kong?
Our head office will always be in Hong Kong. When I first moved here the city was dead creatively and I thought I had made a huge mistake, that couldn't be further from the truth now.