Their parents founded Hong Kong fashion success stories Bossini, G2000 and Moiselle. They want their labels to go one better
The families of Lois Tien, Victoria Law and Harris Chan created three of Hong Kong’s most successful fashion brands – G2000, Bossini and Moiselle. All three work or have worked in the family business but have their own ambitions
They say a passion for fashion usually runs in the blood, which explains why so many European fashion brands continue to be run or managed by their founding families, be it the Missonis, Ferragamos or Fendis.
A similar culture can be found among Hong Kong’s own families, many of which started out in garment manufacturing. They broke new ground in the 1980s when they launched affordable labels aimed at the local market.
Today these brands have grown into multibillion-dollar businesses and in turn are inspiring the next generation of fashion scions to follow in their predecessors’ footsteps, or to create a legacy of their own, either within or outside the family business.
Lois Tien wasn’t even born when her father, Michael, founded speciality clothing label G2000 in 1985. She studied fashion and merchandising in the United States and ended up in New York for several years working as a buyer and merchandiser for various companies including J. Crew. In 2013, she eventually joined G2000, but felt unfulfilled.
A year later she began eyeing Anagram, the company’s premium line launched in 2010 by a few designers within the company. Rather than join the design team, she took on the role of brand manager, overseeing the operations and marketing hand in hand with the company’s creative director.
“The team was much smaller – say 10 to 12 versus 300 at G2000 – which really appealed to me. When I came on board I ended up doing a bit of everything, but then the original designers retired and I was left to reposition the brand. We shut down China operations and reconsolidated in Hong Kong. I wanted to refocus the brand [on] the right customer,” says Tien.
Soon she was involved in other aspects of the business such as product development, which included sitting in on fittings and speaking to customers in store, and sourcing fabrics in fashion capitals such as Paris.
After refining the brand’s vision and aesthetic, she made the decision to open new stores in Hong Kong, including one last year. Currently she is working on a long-term plan to take the brand to China while testing the online market with a capsule collection with online luxury goods platform Reebonz.
“I want to build Anagram to be as big as G2000 one day. Hong Kong brands in general are content with just dominating the local or regional markets, but I am eyeing global. Creating a strong brand identity will help us get there, and now the world is more open to the idea of brands from this region. Hopefully I can take my family’s work one step further,” she says.
Like Tien, Bossini heiress Victoria Law started her fashion career outside the family business as a buyer at Marc Jacobs in New York. Upon returning to Hong Kong, and following a stint at Gucci, the graduate of the Parsons School of Design in New York launched her own business, a multibrand fashion boutique called ZStampz, in 2002.
In 2004 she founded her own fashion label, bread n butter, which was sold exclusively at ZStampz. After seven years she brought the brand under the family umbrella, which allowed her to further develop a successful wholesale business and retail network (at one point the brand had 80 stores in China).
“When I joined the family business my children were very young so it really helped that I was able to access capital to develop bigger collections and tap into resources such as the factories. Last year I was ready to go on my own again, so I bought back the business to run it together with my husband,” she says.
For the past year Law has been busy consolidating and streamlining bread n butter’s retail footprint (ZStamptz has since closed) while shifting her focus to new projects, including an online-only fashion brand.
Although she is quick to acknowledge the advantages of working in the family business, she believes her new-found autonomy will allow her to make a greater impact with her brand.
“Everything is much more direct, there’s no hierarchy to follow and I am able to make decisions fast. I have also been able to revamp the design and work closely with the team to develop new elements into the collection which were vital to the brand’s growth. Being independent means I can take more fashion risks, while constantly challenging the team,” she says.
Moiselle heir Harris Chan, much like the brand he leads, is the youngest of the bunch. His parents were garment manufacturers, and created Moiselle in 1996 to secure the livelihoods of their factory workers, who risked losing their jobs. His parents never wanted him to join an industry which they deemed too “risky”, but Chan had his own plans.
He studied at Central Saint Martin’s and the London College of Fashion and learned the ins and outs of the business at brands such as Dior, Burberry and Topshop. After he graduated in 2009, he did a year of work experience in Paris before joining the family business.
“When I first came back to Hong Kong people always complained about local brands and how bad they were. Rather than make excuses, I decided to make it my mission to change this. Originally Moiselle was about just garments – I wanted to build a real brand that had a vision and a philosophy,” says Chan.
Deciding to base himself in Shanghai (his atelier is in Hong Kong), Chan began his reinvention of Moiselle. He started with the clothes and established five lines. They include the Classic, which features luxurious embellished styles; Trendy, featuring modern street fashion staples; and Road Trip, a laid-back holiday collection inspired by everything from the Coachella music festival in California to travel.
He also generated industry buzz through high-profile collaborations with celebrities such as Rosamund Kwan, a former Hong Kong actress, and hosted seasonal fashion shows to draw in the crowds.
The ultimate multi-tasker, Chan is working on several projects. He is opening a vintage store with Chinese model, actress and singer Angelababy’s manager Kim Chow, and launching leather goods and hats.
Every step of the way he still seeks advice and guidance from his parents, while being open to advice from all company staff. Daily meetings with his parents first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening ensure the smooth running of the business.
“To me clothes are there to serve a function and make women feel good – that’s why I look at them as an investment. I’m not doing this to feed my ego or prove that local brands are good quality,” he says.
“I want to do something that makes people that work for us feel proud, while giving our customer clothes that they feel confident in. Of course I want my parents to be happy, but for me personally it’s always about doing better.”