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.|
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:
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