Published on February 5th, 2012 | by Aeris0
DESIGNED IN CHINA: CANDY & CAVIAR
AERIS Talks to Candy Lin, designer and founder of Beijing-based label candy&caviar, about how her ‘factory-floor education’ led her to create a brand that would make waves in Hollywood.
My career in Beijing actually began at CCTV, but after CCTV eight months I realised that it wasn’t really for me. I was reluctant to go home to the States after I had decided to begin life here, since I was already in Beijing and wanted to make something of myself. I asked myself honestly “what would I be happiest doing?” and the answer was what it had been all along: to have a fashion label. That was my dream all my life, but I never thought it was possible to just wake up one day and start making that happen.
When the job other people thought sounded amazing didn’t turn out as planned, I had nothing left to lose but to try the one thing I’ve always dreamed of doing. As it turned out, as with a lot of people, what made me happy made me succeed. However, I was prepared to work very long and hard to start something of my own… and I knew I would need the energy too. For anyone who dreams of starting something of his/her own, the younger you start, the better! You’ll never be able to devote all your time and energy the way you can while you’re young.
I asked myself honestly “what would I be happiest doing?”
While I always loved everything about fashion and designing clothes, what was hardest for me was knowing I hadn’t studied design formally, nor did I have the time to go back and spend three more years studying and another three years interning (which was the minimum most of my design friends studied and trained). I knew in order to compete with all the other designers who went to top design schools or people who spent years interning and working with top fashion houses, I needed to do something equivalent in experience to be on the same level.
When I engaged with a factory two hours outside of Beijing to start producing my designs, there was a lot of miscommunication. I had no idea why certain things couldn’t be done — why the measurements I gave could not work with the designs I created or why a specific kind of fabric could not be stitched to another kind. They’d try to explain technical production issues to me and I’d really struggle to get it. They even asked me “are you sure you actually want to do this?” I knew I did and I was determined to do what I needed to in order to learn efficiently and thoroughly.
My severe lack of technical knowledge and familiarity with fabrics were the main issues holding me back from achieving my goal. I addressed these issues by spending one full year in that very same factory, watching them work. I was there day in and day out, observing each step in the production chain. They were really patient and helpful and became my second family in Beijing.
No matter how well you can design, knowing how the manufacturers’ world works is invaluable. After a year in there, I had gained more hands-on experience and knowledge about production and fabric than some of my fellow design friends who had studied it for years. At the end of that year both the factory and I agreed we were ready to communicate successfully. From then on candy&caviar grew into something I had only once dreamed about.
Q & A
WHAT DOES THE NAME CANDY&CAVIAR MEAN?
Well, Candy is my name, but it also reflects the more fun and casual cuts and styles of the brand. Meanwhile, the ‘caviar’ reflects the fact that it is also very chic and high in quality. So the personality of the brand is real and laid-back, yet chic and sophisticated.
WHAT’S YOUR STYLE?
Slightly edgy, comfortable and clean-cut.
HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR LABEL STAND OUT?
In China and much of Asia, most things stand out by being bright or bold. candy&caviar stands out by being a simple staple with unique details or a distinguishing feature. We produce each item so little details make our customers feel the piece was personalised just for them.
SO QUALITY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN HAVING A LOT OF FEATURES?
For us it is. Every brand is different. candy&caviar tends to produce similar designs season to season, but what changes is the pattern, type of fabric and our minor details. It’s always got to be something very well suited to that season.
TO WHAT EXTENT DID YOU FEEL THE EFFECTS OF THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN THIS YEAR?
We felt it, but it wasn’t too dramatic. Sales in the states to buyers we’ve done business with before remained consistent in orders, but new buyers were definitely less willing to take on any new designers, including us. There’s less tolerance for new risks at the present unless buyers can be sure it’s going to generate a sales return. We can only continue to build up relationships with new buyers first so they can get to know our brand and see it has that potential.
HOW DOES IT FEEL SEEING THE BLACK-EYED PEAS OR OTHER WELL-KNOWN ACTORS AND ARTISTS IN YOUR DESIGNS?
It’s always a huge compliment! It reaffirms that we’re doing something right, since those guys have so many options to choose from fashion-wise. It’s always nice to see someone look good in something too, that’s definitely the most satisfying part for me.
DO MANY ASIAN CELEBRITIES WEAR CANDY&CAVIAR TOO?
For sure, we’ve seen some very well-known Chinese celebrities, like Leehom Wang, in our candy&caviar, which is extremely exciting.