The company accepts manufacturing orders from a wide range of global brands such as Tokyo Style, Look Inc, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Armani Exchange, BeBe, Calvin Klein, Chine, Carolina Herrera, PdH.
"Actually every year this list increases with all different kinds of customers. People whom we have never met before get to know about the quality of our products. If they like them they will just place orders," said Ms. Chow.
Apart from accepting manufacturing orders, Neo-Fantastic has also built up its own brands in the last few years, targeting the huge China market. Noteworthy among these new brands are Italiya and " " which target mature chic women.
A few years ago, Managing Director, Lucia Chong, decided that the company needs to develop its own designing team so free lance designers were brought in from Italy to create and build up brands for China.
As a result of continuous design development and modification, Neo-Fantastic succeeded in upgrading its product portfolio and securing better business. Instead of just waiting for orders to come in, Neo-Fantastic also calls on potential buyers to tell them what the company can do for them, Ms. Chow explained.
Apart from developing its own design capability, Neo-Fantastic also makes sure that prices are affordable by using less expensive fabrics made in Korea and Japan.
Every year the company sends representatives to the Paris boutique exhibitions to catch new trends and to order fabric samples for references or for making sample garments. After getting to know the trend for expensive fabrics in Paris, the company can look for similar fabrics that are available in Japan or Korea - at much less expensive prices.
"We made it work by combining good designs with prices that are not too expensive. Workmanship is No. 1. If people see that your products are affordable and presentable they will wear them. Western buyers also come here to see the designs - if they like it they just order."
But good manufacturing alone is not enough. Ms. Chow emphasized that it is very important to create brand recognition - hence the need to make extra investments to build up brands for the China market.
Brand building is important
Commenting on Mainland consumption pattern, Ms. Chow noted that consumers are very brand conscious.
"People like to buy good things - not expensive brands like Gucci but made-in-China products manufactured with imported fabrics from Korea, Japan, Italy, but using our own design concept. People don't like to wear what they've just picked up off the sidewalk. The rationale is the same as in the case of international marketing. If you can maintain a very good brand image, customers will always come back."
"We spend quite a lot of money on designing and modifying, but it brings in better business. We are also more aggressive, we tell customers what we can do for them. As a result of this strategy, the market has been very active in the last few years. Now we are not only receiving more orders but also developing some young team members who will work together to modernize our business."
Growing design capability
Instead of just accepting manufacturing orders, Neo-Fantastic decided to be more creative by setting up and developing brands and presenting its own fashion collections. Because the internet and international exhibitions are great mind openers, Hong Kong and China are catching up very fast in terms of design development.
"Right now international designing in China and HK is quite good as compared to Italian designs which are shifting into hi-end brands. Because of the internet we can see all the trends in Milan and other international fashion centers every day hence local designers can easily open up their mind. We also join a lot of exhibitions in Beijing, Shanghai, Paris, every year. We see all kinds of amazing exhibition booth designs, including 10-level booths to display all kinds of brand products. Engaging bigger and more impressive booths signify that the company is big and successful," Ms. Chow explained.
Meeting high Japanese standard
The fact that the company has handled exports for the Japanese market for so many years means that the company is very good at meeting Japanese standard requirement.
"Because Japan requires very high quality finishing, they send inspectors to live in Hong Kong in order to control the whole production processing. Neo-Fantastic factories are working together with Japanese inspectors, allowing them to see how the product is processed at every stage. This way they make sure that the whole process of manufacturing is perfect," Ms Chow added.
Commenting on international competition, Ms. Chow noted that European markets have made great strides in the last few years, especially in Spain and Russia. Whilst the bulk of European orders are manufactured in Turkey, silks and light weight fabrics are better handled by the China factories which offer good workmanship as well as low labor costs.
Australia is a difficult market because of high taxes, quotas and other related matters. By the time we add in everybody's mark-up margins, selling prices become too high. Wholesale business is not so secure in terms of prices.
"Hong Kong is also competing with China itself but because Neo-Fantastic is an international company with a huge market behind us, sales growth will be high for a few more years. There is always room for good manufacturing and high end designs, provided that prices are not too expensive," Ms. Chow cautioned.
Hong Kong's unique advantage
Because Hong Kong grew up as a British colony and accepted western education, people have more international training, Ms. Chow noted. Owing to this background, Hong Kong offices really know what is standard. Because Hong Kong people have a better understanding of clients' varying needs as well as Mainland culture and work routines - especially with respect to timing, standard control, they are better able to handle different angles of people and problems.
Hong Kong-based Neo- Fantastic also has 3 big factories in China handle different categories - some specialize in winter clothes while others are better at light silk. Buyers who go through Hong Kong may pay 1 dollar or 50 cents more but they will be more secure.
"Dealing directly with Mainland factories can turn out to be very difficult. Factories in China only say one thing - cheaper, but behind that we can't see the damages. Maybe the shipment is a bit cheaper but the quality and the understanding are not as secure. Their standard for OK is totally different."
When Hong Kong people say something is OK, we really guarantee that it is international standard OK, Ms. Chow affirmed.