Career of student with fashion bent that took a surprising turn
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.”