Fashion in Hong Kong and China

Hong Kong duo with bags of ambition launch debut capsule collection

Childhood friends join creative forces to design, make and market oh-so-desirable totes, satchels and clutches with a sleek, minimalistic aesthetic

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 April, 2016, 12:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 April, 2016, 2:19pm

Quality and craftsmanship are at the heart of the design philosophy of two young Hongkongers and their label Cafuné.

Founded last year by childhood friends Queenie Fan and Day Lau, Cafuné is a tightly curated collection of monochrome handbags that launched in December.

“Since we were young, Day and I have wanted to work together. We were always exploring opportunities related to art and culture but were never sure what shape it would take. Eventually, with my design background, we felt strongly about setting up a brand,” says Fan.

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Fan, who heads Cafuné’s design and product development, graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in the US, before taking up handbag design posts with 3.1 Phillip Lim, Coach and Rag & Bone. She then returned to Hong Kong and felt an instinctive pull to continue her work in accessories design. That’s when Cafuné was born.

“Cafuné is a Brazilian Portuguese word – it means playing with your lover’s hair,” says Lau, who handles the marketing and financial aspects of the business. “It’s it’s a special word because it covers the emotional and tactile feeling that we want to create with our products.”

The brand’s design approach is minimal, reflecting Fan’s industrial design background. For the brand’s first capsule collection, which comes in two colours (grey and black) and in three different models, Cafuné focused on creating signature classics that would fit seamlessly into any woman’s wardrobe. One example is through the use of marble panels – a design element which requires marble to be two millimetres thin and lightweight. Because of its fragility, the stone is framed in custom metal hardware, resulting in a sleek and modern aesthetic.

Working with wafer-thin marble meant the brand had to search high and low to find the right people able to deal with such precise requirements. With Hong Kong’s proximity to the mainland, Cafuné was able to work with a nearby factory to ensure close communication and quality control.

“Manufacturing is very important for our brand,” says Fan. “It was difficult at the beginning to find someone who wanted to work with a small brand like us but were lucky to have found a boutique factory that shared our values. They’re into craftsmanship.”

Despite today’s saturated and competitive marketplace, the crew at Cafuné are optimistic. “We realise it’s a difficult market but we’re excited at the same time, because we haven’t found a brand, at least in Hong Kong, that’s affordable with a minimal and luxurious feel. We saw this gap in the market and filled it.”

Lau and Fan say the response has been encouraging. In addition to being stocked in Ethos and sold online, the brand also hosted a pop-up event in January that generated positive feedback.

“It felt rewarding when people came – especially those who we don’t know – who wanted to buy our bags because they knew us through social media,” says Lau.

“For emerging brands, social media is the most affordable and direct form of marketing, so we devote a lot of resources to that side of our business,” says Lau.

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Cafuné is also setting its sights globally, aiming for more sales points throughout the world such as Melbourne, London and New York. In addition, Fan hopes to work with other materials, including brushed leather and suede, and expand into other categories such as wallets and cardholders.

“The biggest challenge right now is that it takes time for people to gain confidence in our products. We feel that it’s important to get our name out there, to build international recognition as soon as possible.”