AFC DESIGNERS ABROAD SPOTLIGHT
MEET | AMXANDER
Rong Jake Chen, Co-Creative
For our first Designers Abroad spotlight we caught up with Rong Jake Chen, Co-Creative at AMXANDER, to discuss the brands success in Asia and how Australian fashion is being perceived internationally…
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR INDUSTRY BACKGROUND AND WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO FASHION?
I started with fashion in a proximity role, developing brands from a market perspective and dabbled in retail consulting, as it was the easiest pathway from my educational background. But from the very beginning, I knew I wanted to involve myself actively in story-telling and product. This is what drew me into fashion to begin with – appreciating the quality of the garments, and the symbolism that they’re imbued with through our cultural blueprint.
HOW WAS AMXANDER BORN? WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR THE BRAND?
AMXANDER was born as a small experiment – playing actively with graphics and prints, in small run t-shirts and sweatshirts. Jason Pang, the other co-creative and business partner at AMXANDER, and I met by complete whim and kicked it off – thinking it would be fun to test the local market. As this slowly progressed through time, we began working into contemporary collections about 5 seasons ago, which was always part of our plan. Our vision is simple – to create a sense of escapism for men and women, who want to imbue another idea of ‘identity’ onto themselves. A sense of role-play you might say.
TELL US ABOUT THE BRAND’S INTERNATIONAL ACTIVITIES. HOW HAS AMXANDER BEEN RECEIVED BY GLOBAL CONSUMERS AND INDUSTRY?
We’ve been in and out of the European market in the last few years – each time with renewed insights - being so far away, proximity wise, it’s been hard to provide a stable idea for the market. However, we’ve just started working with ORDRE – a 360 showroom that works with renowned players in the market that has a presence in both the US and European markets.
Three seasons ago, however, we’ve decided to tell our narrative to the Chinese market – and things have aligned up well for us through our active efforts. We are now about 12 accounts strong there and have launched a few collaborations along the way.
Most recently, we’ve just celebrated a small party last week in Shanghai to commemorate our “WeChat official channel” launch that involved getting industry people, and some of our best clients over to celebrate.
ANY TIPS FOR OTHER AUSTRALIAN BRANDS TRYING TO BREAK INTO CHINA?
China may seem lucrative based on the growing wealth in the country, but I think brands need to reflect on their understanding of the market – it’s a completely different way of thinking, understanding and consuming over there. Too many brands rush in trying to get a slice of the pie, without fully comprehending the pulse of the market and the Chinese consumer. From communication, all the way to colour preferences – it’s definitely a different world. So my advice is to approach with caution, and be sure you partner with someone who shares your vision and has a strong comprehension of the market.
WHAT DOES ‘AUSTRALIAN’ FASHION & STYLE MEAN TO YOU? HOW HAVE YOU FOUND AUSTRALIAN FASHION TO BE PERCEIVED INTERNATIONALLY?
Australia, being a relatively younger country, is a mixed bag of cultures. And I believe that is what Australian fashion means. It’s the voice of many interpretations of fashion – drawn from foreign markets, or foreign ideas. We’re a country that hasn’t undergone so much societal tension, in the sense of wars, economic crises – and so forth, and so I strongly believe that doesn’t create subcultures, experiences or ideas unique to ourselves. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but from our experience speaking with people in international markets, they aren’t able to really capture or articulate what Australian fashion distinctively is. It’s fluid – particularly with the menswear market in mind.
WHAT’S NEXT? ANY EXCITING PROJECTS ON THE HORIZON?
We have a few collaborations in the horizon, that we can’t yet discuss but hopefully it’ll all run smoothly and we can announce them soon!
YOUR GLOBAL TEXTILE & FASHION GO TO’S?
1. The Wool Lab – a great initiative run by the Woolmark Company (of which we were involved in their prize a few seasons ago), that allows designs to go through the biggest innovations in wool, and connect with a global set of suppliers.
2. Saspac – A Japanese fabric distributor located in St Kilda that have the most amazing textiles on hand.
3. Smart Casual Podcast – a podcast run by Emma and Amie, both from Melbourne discussing feelings and issues in fashion. I’ve recently had a chat with them about my perspectives behind ‘made in China’.
4. Hong Kong Wool Resource Centre – if you’re ever in Hong Kong make an appointment with the HK Wool Resource Centre HKresourcecentre@wool.com – an initiative by AWI (Australian Wool Innovations). It’s a global hub for all things wool, providing market intelligence, technical innovations and sourcing information for spinners, knitters, retailers, designers, students, garment makers and visiting woolgrowers.
5. Natalie Skubel – one of our favourite consultants that we’ve had the pleasure of meeting through our work. Based in Melbourne, she’s an expert on textiles and understands the local market like the back of her hand.
WANT TO KNOW MORE ?
You can also reach out with Jake’s partner company www.fwcollective.com via firstname.lastname@example.org, where they provide market and product development strategies and execution.
Lastly, read the brand’s first WeChat article here!