“Hong Kong Had An Excellent Creativity That Was Unfortunately Kept Under The Radar”
A relatively new transplant to Hong Kong, French entrepreneur Cedric Delzenne has wasted no time in making himself at home since relocating to the bustling city in 2010. Disappointed by the stifling effect high Hong Kong rents have had on individual fashion designers, and the scattered nature of the city’s shops, Delzenne set up the online store Shop des Createurs to serve as a central, virtual fashion “boutique” and offer a hand-picked collection of designers from Hong Kong and around the world. Rather than holding inventory, Shop des Createurs displays the latest creations from its curated roster of designers from places as far-flung as Paris, Buenos Aires and Hong Kong, operating as a marketplace on behalf of the designers and shipping directly to buyers. Available in two languages (French/English) and four currencies, the secure site currently stocks nearly 30 designers from eight countries.
Coming off the success of his recent trunk sale, which attracted around 400 fashion-hungry Hong Kongers despite monsoon-like conditions, Cedric Delzenne recently spoke to Jing Daily editor Avery Booker about the inspiration behind his company, his observations on the Hong Kong scene, and some of his favorite Chinese designers.
Jing Daily (JD): Can you tell us a little about your background, and how you came to establish Shop des Createurs?
Cedric Delzenne (CD): I was born in France and studied business & marketing at EDHEC. I had the opportunity to study and work abroad quite a lot before moving to Hong Kong in 2010. Denmark, Brazil, the US…they all contributed to my desire to build my own online company. I find it just amazing to start from scratch and quickly create value for the community.
I knew nothing about Hong Kong and its culture before moving here, but networking, admin stuff and website development are super easy in HK and I quickly realized that it was the perfect environment (and timing) to realize my dream. And then the idea came up: Hong Kong had an excellent creativity that was unfortunately kept under the radar by skyrocketing real estate costs and large retail groups monopolizing the media space.
The Internet is probably the biggest revolution for Fashion since the rise of global brands, but most people in the industry — and independent designers in particular — don’t have the resources and knowledge to turn it into a brand-building tool and revenue-generating media. Shop des Createurs was launched in Oct. 2010 as the first online sales & marketing agency tailored to the needs of emerging fashion brands. Since then, we have been building a solid reputation in the industry and among consumers for the quality of our selection, customer service, and a genuine expertise in e-commerce, e-marketing and social media.
JD: What was it about the Hong Kong market that attracted you initially?
CD: Hong Kong is generally known as the shopping heaven of Asia, although most customers are mainland Chinese buying from European luxury brands. But Hong Kong has much more to offer in terms of uniqueness and creativity, and I’ve seen with great joy the growing interest for smaller — and more exclusive in a sense — labels, whether local or foreign.
But online shopping is still quite new here, and Shop des Createurs could probably be considered as a pioneer! That’s why our vision is also to build bridges with the real world. We hosted our first Designer Fashion Night last week, quickly dubbed “Hong Kong’s first Fashion’s Night Out” by the press. It was an unexpected success, with over 400 guests fired up to discover the new Summer collections of five top local brands that we support.
JD: What is your general customer breakdown, in terms of locals and expats?
CD: At the moment, the site is available in English and French. We still have a lot of expats shopping with us (for themselves or for gifts to their relatives abroad), but we also see a growing number of Hong Kong-born customers. The Chinese version, due to come later this year, will certainly open us to a new segment in Hong Kong and beyond.
JD: How about the designers you stock, in terms of local vs. overseas?
CD: To support creativity and offer a wider range of styles, we like to keep a fair balance between local and overseas talent. Our unique selection of distinctive designs and brands with a compelling story is also what the Shop is known for. We always take the time to meet the designers, to establish a trusting relationship between us and also to check their professionalism and the quality of their creations. So we tend to travel frequently and attend select trade shows whenever possible.
JD: How would you categorize the Hong Kong fashion scene at the moment?
CD: LV, Gucci, Armani… Fashion in Hong Kong is still mostly about status. Yet I believe that we are at a turning point, as a certain category of people starts to mix “mainstream” with “niche” items. The local media is now regularly featuring up-and-coming brands, a fashion blogger community has emerged, and the government has even declared 2012 the “Year of Design” with a lot of events all across the city.
JD: Do you think the mainland China fashion scene is catching up to Hong Kong’s?
CD: The fashion scene in China is much more complex than Hong Kong’s and it might just follow its own path rather than catching up. One thing for sure is that China has the potential to reshape the global fashion industry, with local designers and trendsetters rapidly building an international audience.
JD: Who are some of your favorite Chinese designers, either from Hong Kong or the mainland?
CD: Barney Cheng — apart from being a really nice guy — is probably one of the most famous HK designers and my favorite for sure. We’ve also been hearing a lot about Shanghai Tang lately, partly because they had to relocate from their flagship store after their rent was doubled (Abercrombie & Fitch is taking over the space). I love the unique aesthetics of their shops, although I’m a little puzzled when it comes to the menswear collections. And in the mainland, Uma Wang for sure!
JD: What upcoming projects are you working on, and what events do you have in the pipeline?
CD: Events are very rewarding and a unique occasion to connect with our audience, but they’re also very time-consuming. Our next DFN will probably take place in September for the F/W12 collections launch.
In the meantime, we are working on a new, more modern version of our e-commerce platform. We are also talking to a lot of designers around the world to offer a wider, higher-end selection to our audience. We will further develop partnerships with other disrupting players in the fashion industry, similar to what we do with Redress (a HK-based NGO promoting sustainability in fashion) and the Ecochic Design Award.
JD: What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned since starting Shop des Createurs?
Building a reputable, profitable business takes time. Be truthful, be knowledgeable, be open and it shall all come together.
JD: Is there anything else you think would be useful for Jing Daily readers to know about Shop des Createurs or the Hong Kong fashion world?
CD: We are continuously scouting for new talent! If you are a designer with great ambition for your brand, I’ll be delighted to hear from you or meet you in Hong Kong — a fabulous city with unmatched opportunities and a unique gateway to China!
Check out Shop des Createurs at http://www.shopdescreateurs.com/. Special thanks to Cedric Delzenne.