Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Doing Business in China Presents: Tofanyi Coco Scrub, a Vegan Beauty Brand


Tofanyi Coco Scrub



What's your name and where are you from? My name is Abdourahamane ly, I’m from Guinea (West Africa).

What is the name of your Company? My brand name is Tofanyi - which translates as "natural beauty” in Susu language {of Guinea or Sierre Leone , West Africa}.

What type of product or service does your company provide? Tofanyi is a vegan skincare brand that creates scrubs using natural oils and more.

Did/do you study fashion or business? I graduated in Shanghai with an economics degree.

How did your journey begin? I became interested in the skincare industry after becoming vegan and finding out that it is extremely difficult to find vegan, cruelty free, and healthy products in China.  I purchased oils from west Africa in order to experiment, and once I formulated my products I started selling them at the markets.

What is the story behind your brand? Tofanyi is a natural brand that fights against animal testing and the use of any animal derivatives in cosmetic ingredients. We are looking to spread the cruelty free message across China while providing top quality skincare. 

How long have you been doing business in China? My company was registered in 2015. 
  What city do you live in? Shanghai.

How and Why did you start it in China? I came to China to study in 2008. After graduation I felt it was a great place to pursue business. 

What is it like doing business in China? Doing business in China is very challenging but with extremely good communication and connections anything is possible. 

Do you speak Chinese? Yes, I speak Mandarin. 

How does speaking Chinese affect you doing business in China?  It facilitates communication and without Chinese it would be extremely difficult for me to set up and operate a business here. 

How does being a foreigner affect you doing business in China? I think it has both positive and negative aspects. I think being a foreigner selling skincare can give you an edge, as many local [Chinese] brands are not likely trusted. However Business is heavily based on connections so you really have to put yourself out there in order to succeed and be accepted. The system can be hard to navigate as a foreigner, so it is definitely more challenging than running a business in your own country. 


Are you afraid that your products and or designs may be counterfeited and or knocked-off in China? Copyright theft is definitely a big risk in China, however the country is improving in tackling this issue. The only solution is to move forward and be ready to deal with any potential theft as it comes. 


How do you control and maintain the quality of your products during the manufacturing process?  I import argan oil directly from an organic farm in Morocco that I have personally visited. I work closely with the factory in China in order to ensure the ingredients sources are of highly quality . 

What's special or different about your product? our products are 100% vegan and cruelty free (rare in China).

How does your company/product impact the environment? In what ways?    We are a vegan brand that fights against animal exploitation and consumption which is directly affecting our environment. It’s believed that over 300,000 animals are used each year in China for the testing of beauty products. Even major imported foreign brands such as L’Oreal and Estee Lauder are required to be re-tested before being sold in China. We look for sustainable ingredients and try to make our packaging as eco- friendly as possible. We are hoping to reduce any unnecessary packaging in order to prevent waste. 

Where can the public find your products? They are available on Taobao and Weidian

Are you on social media? you can find Tofanyi on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.


Abdourahamane ly
Founder of Tofanyi
Any other comments? I hope more people will open their eyes to the atrocities that are committed against animals in order to help end cruelty. By choosing cruelty free cosmetics you are voting against the torture of animals. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

You Saw It Here First! China Made and Trending- Fluff and Tassels

You saw it here first:

Straight from the Chinese factories and right to your favorite store or boutique, here are some of the latest trends being produced as we speak. As fast fashion and trends work, items are mass produced and people come to China to private label and or tweak these items' styles as their own, so it can be very challenging to lay original claim to some of these trends. Read more about Which Came First: the Designer or the Design?  here.

It's fluff and tassel season right? shoes, bags, accessories: Check out these keychains and compact mirrors.













Like what you see and want more information on where to get it? Drop us a message because we source too. 

Stay tuned for more of You Saw It Here First! China Made and Trending. 



Doing Business in China Part 2: Hair By Akoni

 When it comes to merging fashion, law, and the business of fashion, I thought there was no better way than to jump right in to the industry than to come to China, where I have been doing just that for the past 3 years.

I am first generation Nigerian American (Akwa Ibom State), grew up in the American South (Louisiana, Texas, Florida), studied/lived in France, and now China- and that's just about as diverse as my sense of style is, which changes just like my hair. Since I have lived in China, I started Hair By Akoni, a hair distribution company, as well as a sourcing company.

Living and doing business in China has opened my eyes to the intricate details that artists and designers go through when it comes to the inception of an idea, the production and manufacturing of that idea, the protections of said idea, and the global dissemination of the idea turned product. Read more about my journey at  Liberate Magazine.

YES FASHON LAW INVOLVES MORE THAN SUING OVER STOLEN DESIGNS. In fact, the legal issues concerning the business of fashion are similar to other industries- just insert fashion here. Contracts need to be drafted, intellectual properties registered, and these may have to be defended around the world. Further, since the boom e-commerce, paypal accounts and websites do get shut down too as assets are frozen in pending litigation.

All the while we hope that morally, business cares enough about the environment to abide by global emissions codes, use recyclable products, and sustainable energy. In fact, Fashion Legallaire has spotlighted the environmental issues surrounding the fashion industry before- read about it here and here- and will revisit this topic again very soon. In fact, a lot of pollutant factories in China make the fashion world go round but we all play a huge role in today's world

As always you can find me right here at the Fashion Legallaire blog and on Twitter. To learn more about my hair company, visit Hair by Akoni on Facebook and Instagram.


Stay tuned...




Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Which Came First: Designer or Design?

Living in China has been an innovative experience. As the country that "makes it all and fakes it all", it is not a surprise to see, in mass production, the latest fashion creations, trends, and styles. Many people come to China from all over the world to start and develop their business brands. It may be of original design, or a design curated by the manufacturer. Think: original design manufacturing (ODM) vs original equipment manufacturing (EDM).  Because of this, I'm always puzzled as to which came first: the designer or the design?

What usually occurs when a trend is about to hit globally after it is produced in China is extreme visibility- the design or style is apparent everywhere- in the stores, on the train, in different colors, in mimic styles, whether it is to be the "intended design or not." Give or take a few weeks and the design is on the cover of a magazine or worn by a celebrity.

Perfect example is this multicolored tribal strap. Most commonly sold as a purse strap or bag handle, I saw it sold as a belt and phone case strap too. 



1. High end use of the purse strap by Valentino 




   
Quick Note: Valentino says made in Italy, but as I have learned from other luxury brand companies, like Louis Vuitton for instance, their bags may be manufactured in China and sent to Italy where the labels are stitched on as "made in Paris"- qualifying the bags to be proclaimed as made in Paris, even if most or all of the bag is made in China. 

Think: Labeling Laws according to the item's country. Check out what qualifies a label as "made in USA" and what unqualifies a label here





2. Lower End use of the purse strap by Lily Vanity
   




3. Phone case strap at Nordstrom Rack




Now, which came first: the Designer or the Design? It is easy to say that an artist or designer's original design was inspired by another creation, however, there is nothing original about any of the tribal fabric in relation to these three brands because it is the exact item. 

This may relate to why there is no copyright protection for the  aesthetic value of an item. Furthermore, I doubt any of these brands will sue on behalf of the multicolored tribal fabric. 





Monday, August 1, 2016

Does Amazon.Com Steal from Private Business?

As the largest online retailer in the world, I thought I could trust Amazon.com-not only with my inventory but with my business. After careful consideration with my business partner and a few months of research, we knew we wanted to start our e-commerce business with Amazon for a few reasons.

www.poetsandquants.com
Our first reason was Amazon’s commonality and popularity amongst retailers. People know Amazon like they know Google. In fact, no one hardly says, “I’ll search on line.” Instead they say, “I’ll Google it.” Similarly, Amazon.com is a popular and common place to buy online.

Our second reason was visibility. We could have constructed our own website, but with having a new startup and building a brand from conception meant that we would not likely get enough online traffic. Frankly, no one knew our company or had ever heard of us so we wanted a platform that would give us visibility.

Our third reason was convenience. Amazon.com offers businesses shipping and handling. One ships its items to an Amazon warehouse and Amazon will ship the items to the buyers and even handle any returned merchandise.

Here we are, almost 3 months later and we still do not have our highly visible and common Amazon market place . However, 3 months ago, we did our due diligence. We called to check upon the status of our items every week and to know why they were not online. Did our items get delivered to the warehouse? Yes.

But then we got the news that no business owner wants to hear: your items are missing.  Missing?! How can they be missing when they were delivered? Since Amazon.com did not have that answer, we were put under pending investigation, which meant, we had to keep calling them because outside of speaking to an Amazon.com agent on the phone, we only received automated emails.

We were very frustrated as you can imagine. Our first business was sitting somewhere for no one to see, not making any money- a complete violation to the first rule of business. Further, since our merchandise was seasonal for summer, time was just ticking away from in season to out of season. We were certain that by the time Amazon got it together, consumers will have moved on to a style more contemporary.

At the one and half month point, we had nothing- no online space, no hyperlink- and the news got worse. We were then told that two of the warehouse workers were caught on camera stealing our merchandise.  We were very upset yes, but temporary relief set in. At least we knew our merchandise have a home and we can start the reimbursement process; process being the operative word.

The process of speaking to Amazon as a seller is a monotonous one. You start by calling their 1-888 number also known as the number to the front door. This number is not a direct number that designates your relationship or the purpose of your call as a buyer or a seller or a prime membership member. This number just calls Amazon and next you listen to the automated operator. Then afterwards you get to speak to an agent to verify your information. Only after about five to six minutes are you transferred to the correct department. But this happens every single time we called to get an update on our inventory. So you can imagine our level of frustration going on for 3 months now.

As you can imagine, Amazon is still charging us its monthly fee for work that it is not doing so we are livid. Finally we call back and get more bad news: your items have been found. To our disbelief of this new information that contradicts the Amazon thievery from the previous month, the Agent assured us that he will send us photos of our items in the warehouse but we have yet to receive them. It has been 1 week and counting.

I reached out to other entrepreneurs and business owners and some of them recounted their horror stories with Amazon.com. Not only have others experienced theft, but damaged items as well. When I asked about recourse, they said it took a long time because Amazon likes to work on its own time. Imagine that.

Is my entrepreneurial spirit dampened? A little bit. Amazon has been so unprofessional in our business dealings. They have charged us to lose money. We have no virtual market place as promised by Amazon and frankly, we are not even sure if they still have our items. 

So while we wait to figure out what our next move with Amazon is concerning our merchandise, we have researched and found other online market spaces where business owners can do business.

In no special order:

1.     Shopify
2.     Big Cartel
3.     Etsy

These are just to name a few but check out this list of 20 e-commerce shops here. Make sure to do some research about the market space and find out the pros and the cons from people both buyers and sellers that have used the service.

We are so done with Amazon.com. 




Does Amazon.Com Steal from Private Business?

As the largest online retailer in the world, I thought I could trust Amazon.com-not only with my inventory but with my business. After careful consideration with my business partner and a few months of research, we knew we wanted to start our e-commerce business with Amazon for a few reasons.

www.poetsandquants.com
Our first reason was Amazon’s commonality and popularity amongst retailers. People know Amazon like they know Google. In fact, no one hardly says, “I’ll search on line.” Instead they say, “I’ll Google it.” Similarly, Amazon.com is a popular and common place to buy online.

Our second reason was visibility. We could have constructed our own website, but with having a new startup and building a brand from conception meant that we would not likely get enough online traffic. Frankly, no one knew our company or had ever heard of us so we wanted a platform that would give us visibility.

Our third reason was convenience. Amazon.com offers businesses shipping and handling. One ships its items to an Amazon warehouse and Amazon will ship the items to the buyers and even handle any returned merchandise.

Here we are, almost 3 months later and we still do not have our highly visible and common Amazon market place . However, 3 months ago, we did our due diligence. We called to check upon the status of our items every week and to know why they were not online. Did our items get delivered to the warehouse? Yes.

But then we got the news that no business owner wants to hear: your items are missing.  Missing?! How can they be missing when they were delivered? Since Amazon.com did not have that answer, we were put under pending investigation, which meant, we had to keep calling them because outside of speaking to an Amazon.com agent on the phone, we only received automated emails.

We were very frustrated as you can imagine. Our first business was sitting somewhere for no one to see, not making any money- a complete violation to the first rule of business. Further, since our merchandise was seasonal for summer, time was just ticking away from in season to out of season. We were certain that by the time Amazon got it together, consumers will have moved on to a style more contemporary.

At the one and half month point, we had nothing- no online space, no hyperlink- and the news got worse. We were then told that two of the warehouse workers were caught on camera stealing our merchandise.  We were very upset yes, but temporary relief set in. At least we knew our merchandise have a home and we can start the reimbursement process; process being the operative word.

The process of speaking to Amazon as a seller is a monotonous one. You start by calling their 1-888 number also known as the number to the front door. This number is not a direct number that designates your relationship or the purpose of your call as a buyer or a seller or a prime membership member. This number just calls Amazon and next you listen to the automated operator. Then afterwards you get to speak to an agent to verify your information. Only after about five to six minutes are you transferred to the correct department. But this happens every single time we called to get an update on our inventory. So you can imagine our level of frustration going on for 3 months now.

As you can imagine, Amazon is still charging us its monthly fee for work that it is not doing so we are livid. Finally we call back and get more bad news: your items have been found. To our disbelief of this new information that contradicts the Amazon thievery from the previous month, the Agent assured us that he will send us photos of our items in the warehouse but we have yet to receive them. It has been 1 week and counting.

I reached out to other entrepreneurs and business owners and some of them recounted their horror stories with Amazon.com. Not only have others experienced theft, but damaged items as well. When I asked about recourse, they said it took a long time because Amazon likes to work on its own time. Imagine that.

Is my entrepreneurial spirit dampened? A little bit. Amazon has been so unprofessional in our business dealings. They have charged us to lose money. We have no virtual market place as promised by Amazon and frankly, we are not even sure if they still have our items. 

So while we wait to figure out what our next move with Amazon is concerning our merchandise, we have researched and found other online market spaces where business owners can do business.

In no special order:

1.     Shopify
2.     Big Cartel
3.     Etsy

These are just to name a few but check out this list of 20 e-commerce shops here. Make sure to do some research about the market space and find out the pros and the cons from people both buyers and sellers that have used the service.

We are so done with Amazon.com. 




Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Fashion Legallaire Takes China: Doing Business in China

Hello everyone and welcome back to Fashion Legallaire Blog.

 On this edition of Fashion Legallaire takes China, we will focus on doing business in China. My most recent development in the fashion law industry was moving to China and becoming an international business consultant because I wanted to learn and experience more about the business of fashion. Further, one of the advantages of living in China, specifically Guangzhou, is that I have access to various of the markets and manufacturers in various industries. 

In America, when learning about the business of fashion, I would usually learn about the designer, see the finished product and research its intellectual property. I frequented BOF.com to keep abreast on the financials of the market and stay on top of market and fashion trends. In China, however,  I am involved with the more technical side of fashion- raw materials, accessories, factoriy and market visits, and logistics (think shipping, quality control). It has been fun so far, but this part of the business of fashion has its challenges. 


1. What's the hardest challenge when doing business in China? 

The language and culture barrier. Doing business in China is unlike any other business experience I have had. Understanding the culture and learning to work with it in China in order to be successful is ongoing. Building business friendships and relationships here takes time and catering to because once you have the "guanxi," you are good; but sometimes, for some people, you will never be more than a foreigner doing business in China. Consequentially, the foreigner tax is real when doing business so it helps to have a trusted Chinese business partner to help you overcome that hump. 

It is imperative that you speak Chinese or work with someone who can speak Chinese when doing business here. Within the last 15 years, China became more open to foreigners permanently living and doing business here, so there is a huge language gap. Also, many of the manufacturers, market vendors only speak Chinese, and or a local dialect. Therefore Learning Chinese or having a trusted business partner who is Chinese and or can speak Chinese is imperative. 

Hand signals, and I'm not talking about sign language, and other western non verbal cues that I have learned in my life, do not work in the place of actual communication here in China. It is quite interesting and sometimes funny, but can be frustrating when trying to articulate particular instructions and specifications about manufacturing and shipping. 


2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing business in China online?

When it comes to the internet and technology, China is a global leader and does a great job at making most conveniences in life available online and or with the scan of a Quick Response code (QR code), a two-dimensional barcode that is machine readable, and stores information about the item to which it is attached. QR codes seemed to have come and plateaued in America but China is the future, especially when it comes to international business, so this may come alive again there. 
My QR code: The LifeStyle Buyer
available on Wechat

              When it comes to doing business online think Taobao, Alibaba, Aliexpress, which are akin to Ebay and Amazon. These are giant online vendors who supply the world with almost everything it needs when doing business virtually, but there in lies the blessing and the curse. 

Not being here to see the product or inspect the quality leaves the average buyer open for the ultimate scam- not getting what he or she paid for in quality and realia. No res ipsa loquitur because the thing does not speak for itself- it's an imposter. I have ordered from Taobao, and still received products that looked nothing like what was advertised and I live here. Therefore it is important to connect with someone who can actually speak to the vendors, see and feel the products and make sure it is up to par with the buyer's expectations. Insert Me, the international business consultant here in China. 

3. Is there intellectual property protection in China? 

I answer this question with a question. "What's a copyright China?"  I wrote about the lack of intellectual property protection (IPP) in China and it's lack of incentive to respect global intellectual property rights. Click the hyperlink to learn more about it.  China has IPP in theory. You can and should file for IPP if creating and manufacturing in China so that you put people on notice. 

China has IPP courts, however IPP in practice is a day to day challenge and when I go to the markets, I question the implementation and strength of IPP here. 


I saw these Gucci flip flops outside of a market, but I was not at the Gucci store. 
And it is not just high end designers that get their work stolen, start up designers as well. I spoke with 2 designers living and working in China and they each told me the horror stories. In both instances, after they designed their creations, they took it to the manufacturer. Both designers saw their designs being sold around in China various colors without their logo. One of them has even stopped designing, at least while he is in China because he does not ever want to experience such theft again.  I must say, it is one thing to research and study China's plight with global intellectual property laws but it is eye opening to see it in person. 

4. What does Business Consulting Entail?

From start to finish, a typical consultation includes speaking with the client to understand their needs and wants. Then further research is done to find out where I can find the item or manufacture it. Once there, I relay all the specifications to the vendor or manufacturer and negotiate pricing. This can take a few hours to days or weeks. Language barrier is the one of the biggest barriers here and simply not being Chinese is another. Relationship building is key here. So if you are not Chinese and have not established some sort of relationship with the boss, then you may not get the better deal or even better items. Samples may need to made and verified by my client. After the item comes in, I conduct a quality control inspection to make sure that it matches my client's request. Lastly, I ship the item out. 

5. What have I learned doing business in China?

From this experience, I have learned so much about manufacturing, logistics, business, importing, exporting, and the surrounding laws. I love that I have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world everyday. The one lesson that I find very essential is the importance of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. 
Emotional intelligence is key to having relationships with people whether in business, family, or love. At the end of the day business is business, but people are people and it is key for me to be in control of my emotions so that I handle my interpersonal affairs judiciously and empathetically. 

I focus on beauty and eyewear and clothes, but if you are interested in buying from China, contact me:

email: camperbundles@gmail.com
Facebook: Hair By Akoni
IG: Hair By Akoni
Wechat: HairbyAkoni 
Twitter: fashnlegallaire