For Boby Chan Yum-kit, building a fashion empire all came down to timing. The chairman and managing director of Moiselle International Holdings and his wife Shirley saw their opportunity in 1997 and seized it.
"It was easy to build the brand in the late 1990s because many fashion stores had to shut down due to the economic tsunami," he says. "Positive thinking is important to being a success in life - it makes you notice and seize opportunities when they pop up."
The brand, which is also the exclusive distributor for international accessories brands such as Coccinelle and Sequoia and British fashion brand Reiss, now has more than 120 retail stores across Asia.
The brand listed on the main board of the Hong Kong stock exchange in 2002, a move Chan says "proves that Hong Kong's fashion industry can allow homegrown brands to develop."
Chan sees the fashion industry in Hong Kong as tougher than before because global brands have hiked up rental prices. But he is ready to face the competition head-on.
"These mega brands have the advantage of resources and a rich history behind them but we have the advantage of time because we are hours ahead of them," he says. "We also have our own factory and design crew which I believe give us our competitive edge."
Besides Hong Kong, Moiselle has stores in Singapore, Taiwan, Macau and the mainland. "We used to be more hands-on for our business but, due to its growth, we have delegated duties to our staff. Our oldest child is in charge of retail while our second-oldest is in charge of design," Chan says.
"In business, it is important to make fast decisions because time stops for no one. So even if we occasionally make the wrong choices, we still have the time to correct our mistakes."In his spare time, Chan enjoys travelling with his wife and seeing how other people go about their everyday lives.
"Because fashion is always changing, we must go to other countries and see what's happening in terms of fashion and lifestyle trends. Even the property market influences fashion," he says.
The devout Christians also go to church every Sunday.
"Before we became Christians, we used to think that we could solve problems by ourselves," he says. "After we converted to Christianity [in 1996], we realised that we need to rely on God to overcome obstacles."
Looking ahead, Chan is hoping to expand his business into Europe and the United States. "As the economies there are still slowing, this may translate into an opportunity for us to break into the market," he says. "We also want to continue developing our business in the mainland but it's a more competitive market compared to Europe and the United States.
"Time keeps moving so it is important to move with it and look ahead," he says. "Whether it is our mentality or the way we handle work, we need to move forward with the times." VI