Hong Kong-born fashion designer Carrie Chan, 32, got her Master’s Degree in Fashion Design in 2008 at the University of Westminster in the UK after a few years as a fashion and lifestyle journalist at the South China Morning Post. Then, in October 2011 she launched the first RI.by.CARRIE collection and made a name for herself with leg wear and hand printed tights. Nicely Made in China (NMiC) met Carrie in her Hong Kong studio at the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre in Shek Kip Mei.
Carrie, what does RI mean?
RI was my nickname when I was a child but later I gave it another meaning: Rhapsody Island. For me, an island is a place where you can freely improvise and compose without limits.
What was the reason you started with printed leg wear?
There were a few different reasons: First I like leg wear a lot and it’s either cheaply made or very expensive – there was nothing in the middle so I thought that there was a market. It’s relatively low-cost to produce and different from making T-shirts. Also it’s fashionable and women as well as men like it. We’re actually thinking of making a collection for men.
How do you create your patterns?
Sometimes I draw, sometimes I just work on the computer, or a combination of both.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I do not want something too oriental so I mix eastern and western elements in order to produce something that looks very modern.
Where is your production based?
It’s split 50/50 between Hong Kong and mainland China, near Shenzhen.
Was it difficult to find a factory to manufacture your products?
Not so much to find the factory, but it took quite a long time to train the person in charge of printing the leggings. Apart from that, the factory owners know all about quality and attention to detail. They also work for several Japanese brands, which is an indication of their high standards.
RI.by.CARRIE tights are all hand-printed. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
We use the screen printing technique and, yes, it’s all done by hand. It allows us to order small quantities so that we can do test runs. We start by making only 30 or 40 pair of tights in a unique size. The tights are made of nylon and elastane (also called spandex).
And now you are also making dresses I understand. What can you tell us about that new venture?
For our dresses we collaborate with Handsome Hero, which has a network of stores in mainland China. Our dresses are made of polyester to keep the prices down and soon they are now for sale in their Hangzhou, Wuhan and Shanghai stores. Retail price varies between 1,000 and 1,500 Rmb.
Would you have produced the same creations if you had stayed in London?
I think so. Some journalists and buyers have told me that the collection is very ‘London-ish’. Western women are more confident in what they wear, and young people are also more daring with colours. I find the young generation in Hong Kong a bit more conservative. In Hong Kong we like to stay within our comfort zone in fashion as well as in other sectors.
Where can Nicely Made in China readers buy your products?
Your readers can buy online and in various shops across Hong Kong and China. Isetan in Kuala Lumpur also stocks our products. The complete list of shops is on our store locator.