Ca­reer of stu­dent with fash­ion bent that took a sur­pris­ing turn

China Daily (Canada) - - PEOPLE -

When Kong Jialin, 26, grad­u­ated from Cen­tral Saint Martin’s, the renowned col­lege in Lon­don, with a de­gree in fine art two years ago, she as­pired to have her own de­sign brand.

Fate took her in an­other di­rec­tion, and to­day Kong finds her­self help­ing oth­ers — Chi­nese and Bri­tish fash­ion de­sign­ers — to take their wares to in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

“I re­al­ized that per­haps the mar­ket didn’t just need an­other bou­tique brand, and by build­ing a plat­form to gather like-minded de­sign­ers I can drive for­ward a trend as well as help em­power so many tal­ented young de­sign­ers,” Kong said.

“Our world is dom­i­nated by so many big brands, but what con­sumers don’t see is the vi­brant en­ergy and cre­ativ­ity of young de­sign­ers who bring to mar­ket bril­liant works.

“I want to build for them good mar­ket­ing, sales and man­u­fac­tur­ing chan­nels so they can shine,” she said, sit­ting in her stu­dio in hip Brick Lane, east Lon­don, a lo­ca­tion that is home to in­de­pen­dent de­sign­ers, artists and mu­si­cians who as­pire to chal­lenge main­stream trends.

In her neat and cozy stu­dio is a large book­shelf filled with art, de­sign and fash­ion books. Con­tem­po­rary art­works hang on the wall, and two big cloth­ing racks with clothes of var­ied style, make and col­ors dom­i­nate the room.

Favotell is the com­pany that Kong founded last year to chan­nel her cre­ative en­ergy into. The name is a port­man­teau of the words fa­vorite and tell, con­sis­tent with the brand’s idea of com­mu­ni­cat­ing one’s fa­vorite fash­ion col­lec­tion with a wider au­di­ence.

The com­pany started by col­lect­ing com­mis­sions from Bri­tish and Chi­nese fash­ion de­sign­ers to pro­mote their brands in­ter­na­tion­ally. She then ex­panded to cre­at­ing on­line re­tail­ing through Favotell ecom­merce out­lets, which are to be launched this year.

The next step will be to use her knowl­edge and con­tacts in the Chi­nese fab­ric in­dus­try to help de­sign­ers find re­li­able fab­ric ma­te­rial and pro­duc­tion out­lets, Kong said. She plans to open Favotell flag­ship stores in Shang­hai and Lon­don in a year to sell the fash­ion col­lec­tions of part­ner de­sign­ers.

De­spite Kong’s young age and short ca­reer, she is a woman with big dreams, backed by a proac­tive at­ti­tude and ef­fi­cient ex­e­cu­tion. So far, Favotell has held two pro­mo­tional events for its part­ner de­sign­ers, both fea­tur­ing in­no­va­tion and draw­ing in many vis­i­tors.

The Lon­don event was held in Gallery Dif­fer­ent, a con­tem­po­rary art space. She laid out the space us­ing fash­ion and fine art con­cepts, and show­cased the works of nine fash­ion de­sign­ers and one fine artist.

The cen­ter of the gallery is dec­o­rated with a big, wooden house through which vis­i­tors can walk and see pieces of cloth­ing on hangers. A big in­stal­la­tion of a model wear­ing fash­ion­able cloth­ing was pro­jected onto the wall, to com­pare and con­trast the real cloth­ing in the room.

“Apart from buy­ers and me­dia, we had so many vis­i­tors who hap­pened to be walk­ing past the gallery and they all came in to see the works and were amazed by it,” Kong said.

Favotell’s Shang­hai ex­hi­bi­tion had even more fas­ci­nat­ing ori­gins. It was held over four days in De­cem­ber in a build­ing Favotell now uses as its stu­dio, lo­cated in Changle Road, which is dot­ted with small bou­tiques that have be­come a draw card for fash­ion de­sign­ers in Shang­hai.

The of­fice space Kong rents as Favotell’s stu­dio is the old home of the Pek­ing Opera star Zhou Xin­fang (1895-1975). As most of Zhou’s chil­dren live abroad, the space was rented out for com­mer­cial pur­poses, al­though oc­ca­sion­ally those pass­ing over this road still mis­take it as a tourist at­trac­tion when they read the “Zhou Xing­fang’s home” plaque out­side the build­ing.

“Many vis­i­tors had been dis­ap­pointed on re­al­iz­ing our place is not open to the pub­lic, so when we fi­nally opened our stu­dio for vis­i­tors we at­tracted a lot of at­ten­tion in the neigh­bor­hood,” Kong said.

Kong, who grew up in Shang­hai, loved draw­ing in her child­hood, and this even­tu­ally led to her study­ing fine art.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Cen­tral Saint Martin’s, she could not de­cide whether to cre­ate her own brand.

“At that cru­cial mo­ment, my mother said to me that the in­flu­ence of an in­de­pen­dent brand is quite small, so why not cre­ate a plat­form where I can achieve a lot more with col­lec­tive ef­forts of like-minded peo­ple. That led me to a com­pletely dif­fer­ent fu­ture.”

But to chan­nel her cre­ative en­ergy into op­er­at­ing a prof­itable busi­ness was no easy task for Kong, who said she is no good with num­bers. To pre­pare her­self, she com­pleted a busi­ness man­age­ment mas­ter’s de­gree, worked as an in­tern for in­ter­na­tional lux­ury brands such as Mi­u­Miu and Her­mes, worked in as­sis­tant roles at Shang­hai Fash­ion Week in Lon­don, and had Chi­nese fac­to­ries make her clothes so she could build con­tacts and test fac­to­ries’ qual­i­ties.

“I want to pro­vide a com­plete set of so­lu­tions to clients, and I also want to help many Chi­nese de­sign­ers grow and break the stereo­type of made-in­China as cheap and low qual­ity,” she said.

“The vague idea of ‘ made in China’ re­ally doesn’t help busi­ness de­ci­sions, be­cause the level of qual­ity is re­ally down to in­di­vid­ual fac­to­ries and how much one is happy to pay for the ser­vice.

“I be­lieve the time has come for young Chi­nese and Bri­tish fash­ion de­sign­ers to make a dif­fer­ence, and I’m glad to help them break in­dus­try molds and find new fu­tures.”

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