Meet the region's leading fashion designers
Born in Hawaii and raised in Hong Kong, Carmen Ho Kar-mun was educated in the US and graduated with a degree in business administration and architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1998. The former investment banker moved to Italy and enrolled in Milan's Ars Sutoria Institute footwear school in January 2003. She launched her own label last year. The brand, Carmen Ho, is in its fourth season and features feminine shoes with a specially developed insole that makes them more cushioned.
Have you always wanted to be a designer?
I never thought I would be, but I tried in a variety of ways. When I was little, I would design greeting cards and try to sell them. I studied glassblowing, ceramics, furniture making, sketching and architecture while at school.
What's the structure of your company?
It's still young. I have three sales representatives, for the US, Japan and France. I work closely with the factory for design and production. There's also a person in charge of quality control, and I take care of the design and marketing.
How many lines are there?
There's only one shoe line right now, Carmen Ho. We plan to expand into handbags and accessories.
What's your design philosophy?
I want to create unique designs that are beautiful and versatile, using high-quality materials and craftsmanship to produce pieces that are long-lasting and timeless. We incorporate stingray and exotic skins to achieve that extra level of quality and exclusivity.
What does your future collection look like?
Feminine. The spring/summer 2006 collection is colourful. I'm excited about the yellow I'm using. It's sexy, fun and carefree. The autumn/winter 2006 collection will lean towards darker and richer colours.
Where are your designs available?
Harvey Nichols and D-Mop. I also sell in France, Spain, the US, Japan, Thailand, Britain and Germany.
What inspires you?
Inspiration can come from strings in a piano, murals, the way a table is placed or how a jacket is sewn. Lines, structures, shapes and how things are put together give me new ideas.
Where do you want to expand?
The two main markets for us are the US and Japan. I'd like to open my own shops. The first shop will probably be in New York.
What or who has been the biggest influence in your career?
My father. He's a full supporter of this venture and a seasoned business adviser.
What plans do you have?
We're in the process of setting up an Italian and US office to enable us to expand the brand and business. We'll then look into expanding the product line and retail operations.
What's your motto?
Live life and do everything with a passion. If you're in a position to give, give back.