Our Ops Director Jack and Account Manager Harriet recently visited Asia to meet with some of our long-standing supply partners. Over the duration of the one month trip, Harriet and Jack totalled 14 flights, visited 5 countries and reviewed 1000+ fabrics between them!
We’ve asked J & H a load of questions about the trip and how they find travelling for work. There are even some tips along the way…
Window or aisle:
Drink of choice on a flight:
H: Prosecco/ Gin and Tonic
J: Jack Daniels and Coke
Best factory visit and why:
H: Our partner that manufactures the fabric and recycled fabric for the majority of our sustainable brands is definitely up there. It was so nice to see Mandy again who we had not seen for a couple of years since she visited us at our office in London. Mandy took us to the showroom and talked us through the insane amount of different fabrics they offer and exactly how they convert recycled plastic bottles to everyday wear fabrics. We then walked around one of their latest developments which is up there with one of the biggest factories I've ever seen, showing us every element of the process. It really is so interesting and important to gain an understanding of how and where our products are produced so this exposure is essential.
J: Our leather bag factory - this is usually my favourite factory to visit as I love sampling the different leather types, whether it’s full grain leather, split suede or some of their latest nubuck suede grains which are a personal favourite. They were working on a bag sample that some of the team are managing at the moment which was nice to get footage of for the client. They are also really inviting and take us for great dinners/lunches (unfortunately, not burgers and chips).
Favourite city you went to:
H: Singapore! I just love the insane busy buzzing city mixed with the contrast of being 5 mins away from holiday/beach resorts.
J: Shanghai, it’s the only place we could get a proper burger and chips! The city is pretty cool as well.
What was the most eye-opening moment:
H: The whole of China is always massively eye-opening for me. We have a huge language barrier with factory owners and even people in general as there aren’t many English speaking people in the industrial areas outside the cities where our suppliers are located. Even with the language barrier, we are always welcomed by the very kind owners - the long distances relationships that we build with our partners is always made stronger when we spend time with them at the factories reviewing some of the unique products we are creating.
One thing that continues to stand out for me, is how invaluable our relationships are with the long-standing partners we have. It continues to amaze me just how much they are willing to do for us in order to allow us to continue to deliver the best possible service and end product for the clients we work with - I guess the strength of these relationships is built over time!
J: I think what I will never get over is the difference in culture (for the better in Asia). Everyone is so friendly, they will definitely go the extra mile for you.
What do you love most about travelling for work:
H: Getting out of the office!... No, the office isn’t so bad really.
The best thing is definitely visiting the remote destinations in the world you would never necessarily book to go on holiday. The outskirts of some of China’s biggest cities, Singapore’s countryside and Malaysia’s beaches are all places that westerners are few and far between but exhibit some of the most amazing cultures, food and atmosphere. Even some of the industrial factories we visited were located within some of the most beautiful places and settings.
J: I love seeing the different cultures - it is so different from being in the UK. The best/most exciting part is always seeing products that have been designed by our team being produced in front of your eyes with our international suppliers.
What do you find the worst part of travelling for work:
H: The limitations China has on internet use can make it extremely hard to contact home - we couldn’t get on our emails at one point for a good 4 days which is tough when we need to be constantly passing through product information to our UK warehouse team and account managers! I probably shouldn’t be complaining but I also hate having to live out of a suitcase, especially when you do not spend enough time at a certain location to warrant unpacking your bags!
J: How slow the internet/4G is. The one thing that frustrates me is when technology doesn’t work - I am like an old man like that! We also end up accumulating a huge selection of new and innovative fabric cuts to bring home which can be very testing on the storage capacity of our bags!
Advice for business travellers in the destinations you visited:
H: Learn the train system in China! It appears to be one of the most straight forward systems from A-B on super high-speed trains but it can be a nightmare! China is such a huge place that it can look like no time at all from one meeting to another but one day we did the equivalent of, London - Manchester - London - Cornwall and back again to an 18 hour flight.
J: Carry a passport whenever your travelling in China even if it’s domestic journeys. Also, try to get an up to date picture for your passport, they didn’t understand that I was the same person as my 17 year old, highlighted mop hair self!
H: If you’re ever in Singapore’s Tanjong Pagar area you have to go into the food court in the Icon building. There is the BEST bagel place...think a fully loaded up sandwich with your favourite fillings but 10000x better. You may be able to hear the place before you see it as they blast hip-hop music, I wouldn’t take a business meeting there!
J: Aqua in Hong Kong is the best restaurant I’ve ever been too. It’s a fusion of the best Japanese and Italian food with the most incredible views of the city and river.
Asia is the factory of the world and anything is possible out there. Paring this with our supplier relationships and our talented product design team allows us to create brands without limitations. Get in touch if you are interested in a Specialist Product brand