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Haute couture tailored online for the well-heeled

By Duan Ting in Hong Kong | HK Edition | Updated: 2017-11-10 06:26
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Haute couture aficionados, perhaps, can look forward to having more time for a sip of their good old cognac or cappuccino, with automation and tech applications becoming all the rage across a wide spectrum of business.

The Chinese mainland's fashion market, seen heading for dizzying multi-billion-dollar crescendos over the next few years, will be banking on a tailor-made approach adopting artificial intelligence and automation as the industry's future trend, according to an eminent chic authority.

"I see this as the upcoming trend for our trade," says Xu Yanping, chief executive officer of high-end fashion group Mondial Atelier and founder of Fashion Tech.

She's voting with her feet in going along with it, lamenting the ever soaring labor and rental costs, wasted materials that are aggravating the environmental pollution problem, as well as high inventory that, she says, are impeding the growth of the fashion business.

An industry veteran with more than four decades in the trade, Xu foresees immense potential for online, tailor-made attire that could reverse the situation by offering personalized and individualized products to suit burgeoning consumer appetites.

The traditional fashion business is also bogged down by other drawbacks, such as depriving people much of their time by having to show up at stores for their measurements to be taken and then returning later for the fitting-out process, coupled with potential manual errors made during the process, all of which call for technology to solve it, says Xu.

She's convinced that online tailor-made and made-on-demand will be the ultimate trend for the industry, so they're working on a fashion tech platform with the online part offering direct styling advice and consultation, photo measurement technology and fabrics and material selection, while the offline part provides showrooms, fitting and automatic pattern-making.

Citing their operations, Xu says their current tailor-made business takes up 10 to 20 percent of the company's overall business, and they aim to jack it up to 100 percent.

According to a Xinhua news report, the Chinese mainland's tailor-made clothing market hit 102.2 billion yuan last year, and is projected to reach 200 billion yuan by 2020.

Mondial Atelier is focusing on the transition of combining offline with online operations, having set up Fashion Tech in 2016 after more than three years of groundwork.

Xu calls it a value-added platform on which they're open to more other brands and designers will cooperate with more individual workshops. "We'll bring customers to our online partners and they can provide products based on the information we get through online measurements and our big data," she says.

The Fashion Tech platform in the last five months had a number of 650,560 visitors, and the number of registered members reached 70,997. The number of members who purchased items amounted to 10,483.

The company's measurement data base has up to a million people. "Imagine clients being able to send us photos for their measurement to be taken through remote control, and the accuracy rate of our online measurements can be up to 99 percent if the photos uploaded are up to the mark. This is very convenient and saves a lot of time."

"On the other hand, we can work with individual workshops to provide products to improve efficiency and reduce the amount of inventory, thus lifting our brand awareness."

Currently, they have four brands available on the online platform, including Mondial Atelier, Maison Mondial, business suits and tuxedoes - Herencia, and wedding dresses and accessories - Camilla Han.

"This could not be done 10 years ago, but right now is the time as we have technology ready to support it, and the mainland's fashion business has been growing into a more mature level," explains Xu.

The company is sending materials relating to its online measurement technology to the relevant authorities to apply for a patent and the application is still being processed.

Mondial Atelier was founded in 1978 in Paris, France, and has been dedicated to providing high-end and elegant suits for women, especially for professionals. With its headquarters in Hong Kong and offices in Shenzhen, the company has stores in 55 first and second-tier cities across the Chinese mainland with more than 400 employees.

Previously working with Goldman Sachs and UBS as an investment banking professional, Xu had wanted to help Mondial Atelier go public but, due to her strong interest in the fashion industry, she decided to dedicate herself to managing it herself for the past seven years and helping improve some of the existing problems the companied had before.

Their targeted customers are professional women aged between 20 and 50.

Xu believes that appearance is a person's key asset and the special language of people, adding that women should "dress for themselves". "You don't necessarily have to be ostentatious but, at least, you need to wear decently and properly for different occasions to show you're well mannered and to give others a good first impression of you."

She recalls that while she was working for major financial institutions, most of her colleagues were foreigners who were properly dressed and well dressing gave her much confidence, especially when she first came to work in Hong Kong in the 1990s.

Mondial Atelier has set high sights on global markets, including Europe and the United States, with plans in the pipeline for the company to float in Hong Kong, London or New York in the next few years.

(HK Edition 11/10/2017 page8)

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