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Forward fashion: Will Lam

Will Lam, Managing Director of garment manufacturer High Fashion International, envisages a future for the industry that stitches together innovation and sustainability.

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Speaking to the senior management of Fortune 500 companies was a regular occurrence for Will Lam when he worked as an investment banker. This gave him exposure to specific business skills he would use later in his career.

When Will decided to work in his family’s investment holding company, High Fashion International – of which his father, Foo Wah Lam, is the Founder and Chair – he had the opportunity to apply his learnings to many areas of the business.

"When I started in the family business, I worked in numerous departments," he recalls. "First, I was in the manufacturing side of the business and then I moved to retail. I then worked with our branded business and eventually in the property department."

When Will became Managing Director earlier this year, he had already built an understanding of the company’s culture and its people. "Now that I run the business, I am looking at what I can do to help it transform and become even better," he says.

High Fashion International is the global leader in manufacturing contemporary fashion. Will is confident the reason it has found such success is that it values long-term partnerships with its clients.

"We provide a one-stop service to our clients. This ranges from fabric development to innovation, design, textiles and garment production," he explains. "Our product range is also wide, which helps us provide that one-stop service."

Will also praises the company culture. "We first look at helping others before our own interests," he states. "That’s how we maintain good relationships for the long-term. We’ve worked with most of our clients for over 20 years. We have a strong bond."

Will believes another key to a company’s success is its people. "We have many loyal employees that have been working in the company for more than 10 years. All of our senior management have been working in the company for more than 20 years," he enthuses.

"They truly understand the company and its corporate culture. We have spent a lot of time training people, focusing on people development and providing a platform for them so that they enjoy working here."

It takes integrity and speed to run a garment manufacturing business on a large scale, and High Fashion International must apply these principles from an early stage while working with the best fashion brands in the world.

"We need to protect our clients’ intellectual property," Will points out. "Our clients have full trust in us. We must also have a fast response to keep up with the fashion world. We need to use new processes to make our products efficiently so that we can respond quickly to the market."

Innovation is essential in the fashion business. High Fashion International spends time learning how to produce products in new ways to ultimately help the client to increase profits. "We work more like a partner.

The client doesn’t just tell us what to produce and we produce for them. We think more from their perspective. It’s interactive," Will says. "We suggest ideas about their products and new ways of doing business. There are a lot of things that we can change as a partner."

When asked about the effects of COVID-19 on the business, Will says, "In Chinese, there’s a saying that goes, ‘You should always see opportunity in crisis.’ All companies in this industry are facing the same situation, which includes a lot of stress. We’re using this time to review our business model and see how we can change to cope with the new normal."

The company is looking at how to streamline its processes and improve its efficiency. "It’s a great time for us to re-evaluate our model to make things more effective and more efficient, and to be more focused on what clients we should work with and what products we should focus on," Will explains.

"At the same time, we believe that it’s essential to help the community. We’re supporting our government in China to make medical masks and medical products. It is our social responsibility."

Corporate social responsibility is a part of High Fashion International’s DNA. Will and his team believe in being a part of the solution in preserving the environment. "Sustainability is the key to the planet," he says.

"This is not just a marketing tool. It’s our mission and a long-term investment for our business. We want to make a profit for ourselves while helping the planet."

To do this, the company partners with many like-minded brands, runs an energy-efficient factory and invests in waste-management services and water treatment.

"We are the biggest factory in Asia with a solar power system," Will says. "We use different processes to help save energy, water and electricity, and also reduce the greenhouse gases and polluting emissions in our production."

The company’s vision is to integrate innovation on a global scale and transform the industry. "To make the industry healthier, we need to help people connect and integrate innovation to a bigger scale," Will explains.

As one of the leading enterprises in the industry, High Fashion International has the ambition to create an International Fashion Centre at its newly revitalised Hong Kong headquarters, also known as the WL District Hong Kong (WLD HK).

"It is a hub where upstream and downstream companies from fashion and creative industries gather together to create synergy and make new businesses. High Fashion will also showcase new designs regularly in its showroom at WLD HK," Will says.

Clients visiting the showroom will be able to modify designs and place orders on the spot with the help of 3D technology. They can also consider joining the WLD HK co-working space and enjoy the state-of-the-art office facilities provided.

As an industry leader, High Fashion International will continue to focus on innovation while also achieving sustainability in its production, operation and throughout the supply chain. "We want to ensure that in the future everyone can enjoy the environment," Will says. "We need to pull together to achieve the same outcome."

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