Made with love in China - Behind the Seams with Crystal and Mr Luo
It’s easy to see a ‘Made in China’ label and conjure negative associations, but for many boutique companies such as ourselves it’s a way of accessing some of the most talented fashion hands in the world, more sustainable fabrics in every colour under the sun (that’s you, linen) and specialists that literally focus on things like sewing on buttons - yes, buttons.
With half of our hej living in Shanghai (and the other a frequent visitor), we are able to tap into this community of workshops and tight knit families of craftsmen and women with experience, passion and bloody good staff lunches. We know, we time our visits just right.
Mr Luo, Crystal & Kiki at the workshop
In this edition of Behind the Seams, we get to know our expert sewing team Crystal and Mr Luo, who have supported hej hej from our humble beginnings to bring our custom, small collections to life - nothing mass produced about it, ya hear.
Our fruitful relationship began with a cup of tea, when Crystal visited us at our family home in Shanghai. Chatty, friendly and fun, we got along instantly. She told us of the recent loss of her workshop to a devastating fire and the bonds she had with the wonderful workshops around her - namely, the quietly confident and very particular sewer, Mr Luo.
He was on the hunt for small, conscious brands to work alongside. With English as her second language, Crystal offered to liaise between us as a favour, simply because she wanted her friend’s business to succeed. See what we mean.
With each collection, Kiki brings Crystal our styles, patterns and fabrics, then gives her the rundown on what we’re making. Crystal then works with Mr Luo to prepare our order - starting with the cutter (not as scary as it sounds). Using the patterns prepared by Rie in Hamilton, the fabric is trimmed and sewed together by Mr Luo and his six talented staff.
If there are any of our real shell buttons required, Mr Luo takes them to his friend next door who specialises in button holes and the sewing on of said buttons - as in that’s literally the only thing he does. When each garment is complete, they are pressed and quality checked from top to toe.
Originally from Henan, Crystal studied clothing design and engineering at the Central Plains Institute of Technology in 2001. After graduating in 2005, she has been working in the fashion industry, focusing on foreign trade and product development with a tonne of knowledge about crafting both woven and knitted garments. Crystal has a very cute son called Peter, who also loves to time his visits with the staff lunch.
Meet Mr Luo
Mr Luo has been working in the fashion industry since he finished his studies in 1997. An expert in cutting and garment production, he established his workshop in 2006 with six dedicated, talented staff. Together, they have a freakishly fine attention to detail and specialise in high-end custom clothing, designer brands and evening dresses.
Mr Luo has lost a lot of business due to Covid-19 in China, so we are very proud to be supporting him and his team as the hej hej fan base grows in New Zealand. He hopes that our lovely customers are happy with the quality of every cut, stitch and button.
Kiki, Crystal, Alice, Mr Zhang (patternmaker) & Mr Luo in the workroom
So, next time you open up a hej hej parcel or hand select a piece from our store, whisper a little thank you to the community who made it with care, love and passion in China.