Janice Wang Jan-yee is chief executive officer of Alvanon, a company that consults fashion brands on how best to make clothes and manage their supply chains, and she agrees with Keh that Hong Kong should not be tempted by the more glamorous aspects of the industry.
“How many Hong Kong fashion designers have really made it in the world? We are not a fashion city. Hong Kong needs to focus on what it is best at,” she says.
Her answer to that can be seen in the transformation of her family’s business. In 1957, her grandmother had set up an OEM that made children’s wear. Her father, Kenneth Wang Kuk-kei, took over the company in 1974 and gradually realised he needed to find more competitive ways to make money. In 2001, he set up Alvanon, named after Thomas Alva Edison, and invested in technology such as 3D scanners to find ways to help fashion brands make clothes that fit better. When he died in 2010, his daughter Janice and two of her brothers took over the running of the company.
Janice Wang says 3D technology has helped Alvanon become the world’s biggest maker of fitting mannequins used by apparel makers, and it has also branched out into supply chain consultancy. “If companies follow best practices, they can shave off a third of the time it takes to deliver a product to market. We also help them reduce inventory, which is important because inventory is money,” she says.
One of Alvanon’s clients is Reebok, the sportswear brand which has a product line for Crossfit, a physical training method that involves a wide-range of exercises, from running to weightlifting. “Crossfit athletes have very different body shapes from you and me. We scan their bodies and help Reebok incorporate the data into their product development. We also help them decide how much of each fit and size to stock. We have the market data to do that, the context of the brand that translates into the percentage of a population that would buy Reebok Crossfit products,” Wang says.
At the moment, the company is investing in a next-generation scanner – an intelligent video camera that recognises what size, colour and shape garment someone is wearing. “It would be for data gathering and can have lots of applications. We are building it ourselves,” she says.
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