Visiting a factory in China

Photo-25-1-18,-4-53-12-pmChina is grand. It’s majestic. It’s overwhelming. Highly saturated and a global powerhouse set to overtake the US by 2020 as the world’s strongest economy.

Hearing this I already had certain expectations on what China had to offer. Exactly this time a year ago, My first trip to China was a family holiday, setting sights on tourist attractions, food and of course, shopping.

But I was privileged to return to China last December/January for a 2-week holiday and business trip.

My business partner, Serena, and I are currently in the product development stage of Lūmmi, a line of infant and adult organic sleepwear we’re creating based on a cotton bunny. It is a long but steady process that’s taken many months, days and hours to prepare. Amid all the discussions and rapid decision-making towards the end of 2017, this trip to China served purposeful for ourselves and our product. We just needed to pack our bags and go.

Why source in China? To put it simply, why not source in China? Skilled and affordable labor work in their favour. More importantly, it’s the cherry on top when Serena has direct contacts there. Sourcing from China gave me a glimpse into the Chinese market. It is an opportunity for any foreigner like myself to adapt further into Chinese culture and observe Chinese hospitality as the potential to do business here is huge.

Tea and alcohol drinking is very much encouraged here. The Chinese go above and beyond when it comes to looking after their guests so bear in mind, if you’re about to hop onboard a similar path, be ready not to refuse any food and alcohol.

We left Melbourne on a sunny December morning. We made a stopover in Shanghai for one night before flying over to Beijing. From Beijing we drove to Tianjin, Serena’s hometown. The first few days were practically nice and easy days, walking to 3 cafes in downtown Shanghai, exploring her city, and taking a bullet train to Wuqing and Beijing for further shopping and art galleries.

Photo-23-12-17,-10-45-02-am-pmgHungry Jack’s before boarding

Photo-23-12-17,-10-43-15-pmPassing through immigration at Shanghai

Photo-23-12-17,-11-57-40-pmShanghai stopover
Photo-24-12-17,-3-36-19-pm Photo-25-12-17,-1-31-31-pmTianjin – the sister city of Melbourne. Looks quite similar.

Photo-26-12-17,-6-12-43-pmBeijing 798 artzone

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Photo-25-12-17,-2-30-56-pmBullet train to Beijing 

Photo-25-12-17,-12-34-44-amChinese pancake street food at 12AM in Tianjin

Photo-25-12-17,-1-26-46-amTianjin Shangri-La

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Dinner on Christmas Day with Serena’s family and they introduced me to this beverage. 53% Chinese alcohol. No further caption needed for this…

Photo-27-12-17,-3-26-08-pmOne of my favorite peanuts ever in the Tsingtao beer museum

Then the business starts.

Waking up in Qingdao on an early frosty but sunny morning, we met up with “Aunty Lummi”, our main contact for prototyping and batch producing our final product. We were first taken into a sampling room lead by the aunty which was situated inside a small commercial building block. It was a tight space with 4 lovely ladies who were responsible for sewing prototypes of our products. Surrounding the ladies were nothing but sewing machines and tables filled with piles of sample garments they had created for other clients. There was no space left and even if there was space, it would be immediately filled with more piles of fabric.

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Making our way through the tight space, we walk into another small room tucked away in the corner of the sampling room. This was were we sat with Aunty Lummi to talk about amending our garment measurements. We wrapped up just around lunchtime and made our way to McDonalds. Not a bad choice huh? To our surprise this was Aunty Lummi ‘s first time having McDonald’s in her city. We treated ourselves with so much chicken, the Chinese McDonalds menu had an array of chicken options including a spicy chicken burger and a box of chicken. I must say, it’s tasty. We had warm milk tea to accompany our order too. We ate more chicken than you normally would in a KFC session.

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After a few hours of lunch, Aunty drove us to our manufacturing facility to tour the full production line in action. Again it was in a commercial building but this time there was no elevators. About 376548 flights of stairs later we finally arrive at the entrance door of the facility. We were lead by Aunty Lummi and the manager of the factory who greeted us with tea. I noticed a little Hello Kitty canister on the side which was cute! PS the garments in the factory photos aren’t our garments being made, it’s a batch made for another client.

Photo-28-12-17,-6-34-12-pm Photo-28-12-17,-6-47-42-pm Photo-28-12-17,-6-45-36-pm Photo-28-12-17,-6-45-27-pm Photo-28-12-17,-6-45-21-pm Photo-28-12-17,-6-49-05-pmPiles of fabric before it gets cut into separate pattern pieces.

It was a relief to see there was enough natural light coming into the space these workers are working at. It was different to what I expected, in a much better way that is. I imagined it to be packed, noisy and rowdy. But this felt calm and wasn’t all that loud. An open yet confined layout, I found it pleasant to watch what seemed to be a close knit group of people rather than a warehouse of 1000 staffers where quality can’t easily be monitored. After walking around we got seated back into the manager’s office where he invited us out for lunch the next day. We accepted the offer and headed back home after quite an exhausting day.

Spending the rest of the night in the hotel, Serena ordered dinner, by dinner I mean fruits that were ordered through an app. Yeah we got fruits delivered to our hotel! That pretty much wrapped up day one in Qingdao.Photo-28-12-17,-11-45-12-pm

Day 2 and it was the last day in Qingdao. In contrast to day one, there was a lot of smog in the air this time. As Serena said, “see, this is pollution”. To me it just looked like a Melbourne foggy day right in the heart of a cold winter. This was the first time this trip I had ever seen much smog. I still can’t complain about the weather, the forecast thus far has been clear with blue skies and zero rainfall at this time of the year! We headed towards an office building to check out a clothe hanger supplier. The two ladies who welcomed us with hot tea had a few different types of hangers that we could probably use in the future. The baby hangers are by far the cutest. Best of all they are 100% recyclable and very well made.

We reunited with Aunty Lummi outside the building where she drove us to a nearby complex to have coffee. China’s answer to Starbucks is their very own “Costa Coffee”. You’ll see this on every corner and it’s about time I finally try it. I’m not a heavy coffee drinker like many Melburnians but I do like a good latte with two sugars. My verdict on Costa Coffee: it tastes great! Put me in starbucks, I am happy, put me in costa coffee and I am still happy. Double the happiness. I find these are the only places you’ll find a good coffee quickly. There are also many cute boutique-y cafes in China serving great coffee but they don’t do take-out coffee.

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Progressing into the day we had a seafood lunch hosted by the factory managers. Qingdao cuisine is packed with seafood as it is a coastal city. One of their signature dishes happens to be one of my favorite seafood dishes, spicy XO pipis. The whole lunch is paired with some refreshing bottles of Tsingtao beer, Qingdao’s famous beer invented by German settlers. I say refreshing because I find it less strong and more diluted than other beers. I’m no beer lover so don’t trust my judgement! But this beer suits me.

Day 2 ended there. Aunty Lummi picked us up from the hotel and dropped us to the airport the following morning where we departed for Harbin for the new year.

Photo-30-12-17,-6-00-43-pmPhoto-30-12-17,-11-38-24-pmWhat 5 hours in a car looks like
Photo-31-12-17,-2-52-28-am Photo-31-12-17,-12-53-43-am Photo-1-1-18,-10-32-23-pm Photo-2-1-18,-8-10-54-pm Photo-31-12-17,-1-23-09-am Photo-1-1-18,-4-07-07-pm Photo-1-1-18,-4-16-40-pmLeft the apple and water bottle overnight in the car. Next minute it freezes up.

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MoMA in Melbourne

Photo-19-6-18,-1-08-28-pmThe Modern Museum of Art is currently exhibiting at the National Gallery of Victoria until October 7th. It includes a range of works straight from MoMA New York, which houses the most modernist collections of art in the world. My favorites Gaugin, Lichtenstein, Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Duchamp, KAWS, Warhol, Haring, Pollock, Mondrian, Koons, *breathes* and Dali are household names especially when it comes to MoMA. You’ll be able to spot their art here in Melbourne before it gets shipped back home to midtown, Manhattan.

IMG_2101During my trip to the US 4 years ago, I actually stoppped by MoMA by mistake. My family stayed in midtown right in the heart of Times Square, making it convenient for us to walk anywhere. I remembered as soon as we checked in our hotel, we unpacked, napped for 2 hours, ate hash browns at the McDonalds downstairs and headed towards 6th and 5th Avenues, spending the rest of the day exploring nearby hotspots. On the way, we noticed a busy Halal Guys street cart and ordered proper lunch. Given it’s a new york street cart, customer seats don’t exist so we ate our plates of meat on rice while walking towards 6th/5th avenues. It was tough!

3 minutes later a miracle happened, we saw MoMA and it had public seating at the entrance! We happily seated ourselves right there with all the museum goers, chewing away our delicious meat on rice.

That was my first MoMA experience.

At the time of that event, Henri Matisse was headlining a major show at the museum. Now that MoMA is here in Melb it made me a little nostalgic seeing the artworks. Some familiar ones, some not. Photo-21-6-18,-12-47-55-pm Photo-21-6-18,-12-46-03-pm Photo-21-6-18,-12-42-41-pm Photo-21-6-18,-12-41-23-pm Photo-21-6-18,-12-53-00-pm Photo-21-6-18,-12-51-55-pm Photo-21-6-18,-12-50-27-pm Photo-21-6-18,-12-50-48-pm Photo-21-6-18,-1-00-56-pm Photo-21-6-18,-12-56-49-pmWhat I remember the most in MoMA New York was how impressive the store was. It’s hard not to burn the wallet when you have a heap of exclusive books and design-y products right before your eyes and you know you can’t get them anywhere else. Which brings me to this next photo, a KAWS BFF figure that only stocks in MoMA New York and nowhere else.  I subscribe to the MoMA site and everytime I get notified of any KAWS product available online, the store crashes. This is just how it rolls when you deal with international fanatics trying to order a freaking toy. No need for that now. It’s here, purchasable in Melbourne!

Kaws is the epitome of modern art. After his Shanghai exhibition and seeing this for sale in Melbourne, I sure hope we get a Kaws exhibition soon.Photo-19-6-18,-1-26-09-pm

Melbourne Fashion Week 2018

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There is so much buzzing around Melbourne right now, we have Bruno Mars touring for a couple of nights, Ed Sheeran doing the same and even did a short surprise performance this morning in Hosier Lane. KAWS is currently holidaying in Melbourne as it appears on his latest Instagram posts of him visiting the NGV and murals in Brunswick – seriously I thought an artist like him would never come here and now he’s actually here…I wish I bumped into him!! Good stuff Melbourne. On top of all that, the Melbourne Fashion Festival is in town and this year you’ll notice global luxury icons Hermes and Louis Vuitton have quietly made headlines this week. They’re here to let Melbourne in on their craftsmanship secrets and behind the scenes work from their headquarters in France. I was happy to see both and just like the awesome NGV Triennial, these are completely free for the public to see (only for a limited time). I’ll talk a bit about it shortly.

Starting off the Fashion Festival week, I attended a “Fashion and e-commerce in China” breakfast with my business partner as we’re currently in the latter stages of prototyping and testing our sleepwear range. The testing and sampling is the longest process so far due to the fact that Australia imposed strict regulations when it comes to nightwear and selected daywear designs for kids and babies. While this process is still going, we thought it’d be good to at least make use of Fashion Week and go to events like these and share a bit of our Lu & Mon journey. The breakfast was super early – I’m surprised we managed to show up on time to watch the sunrise (literally).

Shoutout to Gesualdo Terlato shoes who we met on the day.

 

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Progressing into the week I visited the Hermes at work exhibition and it’s no surprise why Hermes bags are the most expensive. Every Hermes bag on earth is purely handmade and it takes one year of practice to master the Kelly, a base model bag of Hermes. Any imperfections spotted won’t make it to the shelves, instead, it gets sold at a discounted price to its staffers. Most of the people at Hermes have been there longer than I’ve been alive, and it’s a great opportunity for anyone looking into the leather business. Even a non fashion enthusiast surely anyone can find the beauty in the art of crafting. This exhibition is intimate and compact enough for you to get up close with the craftspeople who work in Hermes Paris. There are a few workstations and each one has it’s own specialty: watchmaker, bagmaker, the glover, the printer etc. Each workbench is accompanied by a translator to assist you with your endless queries while the crafters work.

 

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I wrapped up the week with a visit to the Louis Vuitton Time Capsule Exhibition. It was more of an unplanned visit since my boyfriend and I just wanted to shop around Chadstone. But I remember seeing the ads on Facebook and forgot to add this to the reminders list. We were strolling with our coffee when we saw the LV exhibition in the corner of our eyes.

This exhibition takes you back in time to LV’s first few items right until the 21st century with bolder colours and modern collaborations. As soon as you walk in there’s a bagmaker handsewing her way through the iconic LV monogram leather. Like the Hermes workshop, you can ask her questions and get the translator to translate for you.

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A right-brainer by day and occasional blogger by night, you've landed on a place where I live and breathe all things art, design, culture and fashion. You'll find me documenting my life in the creative field, endless travels with friends and family and a bit of food.

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