Christophe Jiang, director of Chilli Ltd and Insighttex Int'l Ltd, is a well-known member of the Chinese business circle in Manchester. “I prefer Manchester as the less congested and easier to navigate alternative to London. I have good access to the Far East flying via Amsterdam and avoid the London airports when travelling to Shanghai, where I go almost every month.”
Christophe’s services to his retail clients have both a fashion and a sourcing side. “For our international clients, we analyse market and fashion trends and offer our own designs. I often meet with retailers’ designers, to – sort of – compare notes and to decide what products will be part of next season’s line.” The added benefit of working with Christophe is that he has strong contacts in China’s textile region around Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu. “My family and relatives work there, manufacturing clothing products. We have about 1,000 employees in my own factory China, and I visit suppliers and producers to check on their operations. I have about 100 staff members in the Sample Development and Quality Control department that provide quick turnaround on development, and keep a sharp eye on production.”
Feel the fabrics
Christophe Jiang is very keen on visiting China himself. “I need to see colours and to – literally – feel the fabrics and textiles my suppliers offer. There have been massive changes in China in the last few years, and new fabric and new trimmings come out so quickly, I need to collect as much information as possible and pass it on to western clients.” With prices of raw materials being so volatile, the Chinese businessman has an even better reason to be on airplanes between Manchester, Amsterdam and China. “Prices of cotton go up and down all the time. I feel I am my customers’ ‘eyes on China’, resulting in good advice on when to produce what and where, at what price.”
In the current crisis, Christophe sees many fashion retailers in the west go out of business. “On the other end, some Chinese manufacturers suffer from low cash flows and some go down. This is troublesome to businesses on both sides. ‘Whom can we trust?’ ‘What suppliers and customers are having a hard time’? I try to keep a close watch on who can deliver on the Chinese side and who can pay on the retail side in the west. So, it is fair to say that I do work in two worlds. To the benefit of my suppliers and customers, and my own companies”, Christopher adds, smiling.