We are in Shanghai for three weeks to establish a production link for our fashion rainwear startup MOOD Copenhagen. The hectic and dynamic city is packed with people, cars and more people. Everybody is heading somewhere or doing something. Nothing stands still and if you do, you will most likely get hit by reckless car, which neither has time nor interest in slowing the it down.
While busy and chaotic, Shanghai definitely has its own charm. With amazing and interesting Chinese food in all shapes and styles, elderly people doing Tai Chi in the green park and Asian girls wearing pink kitty ears in public, you can’t help falling in love with the metropolitan.
However, Shanghai is rarely mentioned without also mentioning business – the place where everything is possible. It is very obvious that the Chinese middle-class is rising and that the wealthy upper class is the center of attention for multiple international premium brands. On Nanjing Road you will find Burberry’s 4-floor flagship store in Asia as well as Prada, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci and many other iconic stores. Though we are in the fashion industry ourselves, it will probably be a few years before we reside in Nanjing Road with MOOD Copenhagen…
Three keys to doing business in Asia
Having been here only about a weak, we have already encountered very relevant people and learned valuable things about the Chinese business life. From the first week, we can outline three main keys to doing business in China:
Relationships are key
… and speaking Mandarin is even more key. When in Shanghai, and in China as a whole for that matter, it is quickly evident that relationships are the foundation everything. If you know someone, who knows someone, you already have an advantage. A great example in our case is production; we had contacted a production agent from home and had signed a contract, held meetings and made a plan for how to get our samples made while we were going to be in China. However, when we got here, Dan-Lin’s contact (a CEO of a big fashion company in China) took us out to dinner and set us up with his friend who specializes in smaller quantities and waterproof materials. Two days later we met with him and his wife, and they are now working on our samples. We are still waiting on a price overview from our Danish agent.
We went to the Shanghai International Fashion Fair, where we met multiple textile suppliers, label producers and much more. Initially, we started out asking the suppliers about their experience, their expertise, looked around the stand and so on. We quickly learned that we were much more interesting when we approached the exhibitors upfront and told them briefly about our new European collection launching soon and how we already had contacted various other suppliers. We learned to be brief, concise and leverage everything we are doing to make it sound like there is huge potential for a supplier.
Everything is possible
If you can articulate it, you can have it – or rather, buy it. At the Shanghai International Fashion Fair, we saw exhibitors specializing in the most obscure things, for example like the transparent straps you can purchase with your bra. We were more interested in hangtags, labels, waterproof zippers and other accessories. No matter the question or concern we had, the answer was: “We can make that for you”. The important thing is to know what you want. If you know that, you can with great certainty find someone in China to make it for you.
All in all, we truly enjoy our Asian adventure and the great privilege of learning everyday from doing real business in China.
On to another adventurous day in Shanghai,
Dan-Lin Chen & Josefine Riber
Co-founders and Partners, MOOD Copenhagen