Creativity pays off with intellectual property protection
Much of the world’s intellectual property (IP) is embodied in creative content. It is a fundamental building block of creativity. As we continue to celebrate World Intellectual Property Day 2018, we shine the spotlight on creative entrepreneur Prudence Mak whose homegrown brand Chocolate Rain has become one of the icons of Hong Kong.
A dream come true
The success of the trademarked brand was borne out of a dream of Mak’s, a hugely-talented and multi-award-winner who has received dozens of accolades since she founded her design brand in 2000. One of the 2010 Ten Outstanding Designers, 2012 Hong Kong’s Ten Outstanding Young Persons, and a recipient of the 2013 Young Women Innovator Award from APEC, Mak started her journey with the creation of Fatina, the iconic image of Chocolate Rain. A cute, handcrafted doll with short black hair, closed eyes and an upcycled patchwork dress inspired by Mak’s childhood dreams of a wonderland adventure steeped in Hong Kong nostalgia, Fatina and her friends form the trademarked Fatina Dreams, Chocolate Rain collection.
Today, they are literally taking Hong Kongers down a collective memory lane. Mak has just completed a series of colourful murals with Fatina as the central character at 20 public rental estates located in the 18 districts of Hong Kong. The “Art in Estates” community project is a year-long licensed collaboration with the Hong Kong Housing Society to celebrate its 70th anniversary.
A stellar example of successful commercialisation
In 18 years, Mak has taken her fledgeling handmade business from a 100-square-foot space to a self-owned shop in Central’s Soho district, an office in Sheung Wan, and a studio in Kwai Hing where she conducts DIY workshops and private events.
From fashion accessories and dolls, the Chocolate Rain business now encompasses a diversity of products that range from bags and beddings, tableware and stationery, creating a consistently fresh image for the brand. Mak set up Fatina Dreams Limited in London in 2008 to run global licensing projects. “We started with a fully licensed collection for the British Museum that ran for nine years,” says Mak. “Getting the project was very challenging, and I had to do a few presentations to prove that a foreign-looking doll will work for the museum.” Global and local brands have followed suit and commissioned Mak’s illustrations for project-based IP licenses. “We do a lot of crossovers with brands, institutions, government departments, statutory bodies, and charities. This year, we became the first local brand invited to design a float for the Chinese New Year Parade. Our licensed products are distributed in Hong Kong and all over the world, and we regularly do licensed exhibitions in shopping malls.
“Having a well-managed IP system is key to supporting the growth of the brand. When your company is well experienced with IP rules, laws and have contracts that are well protected, you can focus your energy on what you do best and in my case, it is to create. We have recently signed an IP contract with investors and will be opening a 3,500-square-foot themed restaurant next year. I will handle the creative direction and will make sure the brand stays authentic.”
A role model
Though it hasn’t been plain sailing all the way with plenty of struggles en route to overcome, Mak’s success story encapsulates the theme of this year’s World Intellectual Day – “Powering change: Women in innovation and creativity”.
To the young women who aspire to follow in her footstep, Mak suggests that getting international exposure through education is a good start. She graduated with a degree in Fine Arts in Canada in 1998, but it was the inaugural DesignSmart Young Talent Award that she won in 2005 that changed the course of her career. She was granted a scholarship to the prestigious Central Saint Martins college in London for a Master’s degree in design. “It was there that I found myself. They spoke my design language,” Prudence explains. “I worked on Chocolate Rain in tandem with my studies. Since I had exhibited around the world non-stop before, I carried on in London by constantly taking part in design competitions, and exhibiting at flea markets and trade shows like Fashion Week in the UK and all over Europe. That’s how I got the British Museum licensing project.”
And to have a successful brand, Mak says, “You need to be authentic and remain true to yourself. Create something that no one else has and make it unique. Whatever you dream of doing, test-run on yourself first. Before I signed the licensing agreement with the British Museum, I test-run the entire product line on my online shop first to prove that the quality is good enough. Make sure everything is right before you sell them. Then you earn respect and trust of your clients.”
As a final word, Mak exhorts large local corporates to support small local designers. “When small designers grow, the industry grows, and Hong Kong grows.”