HKDC Goes Between Local Designers and Overseas Enterprise

Starting up a business has become many young people’s dream. However, they lack not only knowledge and skills to be a businessman, but also a strong and extensive network to develop their businesses. Design Incubation Programme (DIP) organised by Hong Kong Design Centre (HKDC) serves exactly this purpose for local designers to learn how to establish a business in a sustainable way. Acting as a go-between, HKDC has engaged a hotel group from Singapore – The South Beach (SB) who has then led to business contracts worth over HK$4 million with a handful of DIP incubatees.

Pushing Through Singapore Visit

Antony, Mandy and Monica are DIP graduates while Polly, Telly and Percy are still at their “learning” stage. Telly, whose company focuses on upcycling car parts, said “The office for DIP participants is in InnoCentre, Kowloon Tong. I would describe here as the “Hong Kong Silicon Valley” because this place allows designers from different fields to exchange their ideas and to cooperate, forming a nice atmosphere for design and business. The cohesion make¬s it more effective to attract more customers.” SB, positioned as a design hotel, have eyes for Telly’s Art Furniture.

When opportunity comes, grasp it at the right time. After meeting DIP designers, SB decided to choose six of them and invited them to visit the working-in-progress hotel in late 2014. “Being invited is of course very exciting, but we do not really know what we have to do,” said Mandy, visual designer and video editor. 

A Challenging Visit 

Upon arriving at Singapore, SB spontaneously asked the designers to work on their respective areas and showcase their creation. Polly, a fashion designer, was asked to design a hotel uniform using materials she brought. Polly recalled, “They gave me a room and two mannequins, that’s it. They even asked me to display the finished uniform, which is a big challenge for me”. Apart from the tight timeline, she also encountered a black out in the cat walk show. Polly uses canton silk for her design. She requested the attire to be washed by hand. Yet, the hotel washed it with a washing machine for 20 times, which was very memorable to her.

After all those challenges, the designers were rewarded a contract with SB while some are still working closely with SB. There are a lot of talented young designers in Hong Kong, but they are waiting for opportunities to be discovered. They all expressed that HKDC and DIP helped them a lot in this regard. Mandy echoed, “Having a business is a constant process of solving problems. DIP has enhanced my problem-solving skills. My company grew from 1 person to now a small company of 30 employees”. Percy, a jewelry designer who has her own office after joining DIP said, “Knowledge on business and finance is extremely helpful for a new designer. Through DIP, you will also learn how to market your designs and products to more customers.”

HK Designers Meet Talent Scout

Antony remarks, “If you want to be a part of a large-scaled project, first you need to have quality design or service, but of course, the help from HKDC is indispensable. Had it not been for HKDC, our designs would have not been showcased to SB”. Aside from commercial collaboration, HKDC also provides support in other different aspects. Dr. John Lo, HKDC senior consultant and the Chairman of Design Admission Panel, DIP, also acts as a bridge between the designers and SB. Antony continued “Whenever I do not know what to do, I will ask Dr. Lo”. As a mobile application designer, Antony used the hotel decor as a blue print to design a mobile application, building and reinforcing its brand.

On the other hand, Monica’s ceramic design will also become part of the hotel’s cutlery.  She became more confident of her company’s prospect after working for this international project. Shesaid, “Designers who are interested in joining DIP need to have a can-do attitude so that they can acquire knowledge and be exposed to opportunities brought by the programme across two years”.

Ms Elina Lee, the Director of Partnership, Marketing & Communications of HKDC, was responsible for the collaboration between HKDC and SB. She also joined the six designers and gave them some valuable opinions and solutions to their problems during the trip. Elina remarks, “Under the support from the government, DIP brings many opportunities and business knowledge to local gifted designers. Hong Kong indeed has a lot of brilliant designers. The role of HKDC is to bring them more attention, to push forward the development of design industry in Hong Kong, hoping local enterprises will recognise and support local designers.”