A cut above the rest
One of the biggest names in fashion in Dalian, Trands, has become widely known across the mainland, since launching the brand name in 1995. The upmarket men's apparel label is one of three brands under publicly listed Dalian Dayang Trands, also known as Dayang Trands on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Its other two brands, Key Men and Yousoku, produce group garments, mainly workplace uniforms, and unisex fashion for online purchase.
Trands was chosen as a brand name for its similarity in sound to chuang shi, meaning 'change the world' in Putonghua - and a play on the English word trends. Suits account for some 70 per cent of Trands' annual production of about 5 million sets of jackets and trousers, employing about 10,000 staff in its 20 factories and 30 shops countrywide.
So, what have been the main challenges in developing its own label in Dalian and China for Trands? 'Surviving two economic crises,' says Hu Dongmei, deputy general manager and daughter-in-law of the company's founder, Li Guilian, in the flagship retail store, one of four in Dalian itself. 'The government brought in supportive policies for business in those times. But now, after [more than] 15 years, this is our golden period.'
Success was not immediate for Trands, as it prices its garments for China's top-earning segment - those who earn more than 500,000 yuan (HK$609,122) annually. Average suits range from 10,000 to 20,000 yuan, although a few can be had for 8,000 yuan; the most expensive suit, that goes for 80,000 yuan, features 24ct gold in the thread that is woven into its wool and in plate form on its buttons.
'Our success took 10 years to build and has been due to our production strength,' Hu says. 'Our quality is the best in China - and our prices are high. So we only have shops in first and second-tier cities.
'On the challenge side, it takes time to negotiate with shopping malls, who can take time to decide on their tenants. Another is design talent - the fashion industry is only around 30 years old in China, so we work with foreign designers and consultants as we need to.'
Trands plans to expand to 50 to 80 mainland outlets within the next five years.