One night I said to my husband, “I just need to go to China.”
He is fairly well adapted to my spontaneous nature and knows that I am not someone who will ask for permission and wasn’t born with a very large supply of patience. I had been emailing and skyping with my potential supplier in China for a few months and establishing what the parameters of possibility were. Could I have lockers any size or shape? Could I choose the design of the key? How are they packaged and can I customise that? How on earth do you get a container full of lockers from some city in China to me in Australia.
After receiving swatches of the powder coat colour I had selected I knew that just like seeing a colour on the screen is very different to seeing it in person, there were lots of things that get lost the digital translation. I wanted to learn more and to deepen my understanding and connection with the product. Importantly I wanted to know who would be making my designs and see for myself what the factory that would one day take a healthy chunk of my money was like.
So when I told my husband I needed to go to China he understood that I was serious and that it wasn’t really up for negotiation.
Somehow I lucked out and managed to convince my sister and my dad to fly from London to meet me there. (I owe them both big time!) This meant my ‘dream team’ now consisted of myself, a fashion buyer with experience buying from China, a marketing and promotions expert with a successful business of his own and a very cute 6 month old baby. You can guess who was the most popular!
I can not exaggerate how important the trip was to my business. I learnt that my main contact is genuinely lovely, speaks better English than me and could in another life have been my little sisters best mate. I met the family who own and manage the factory, the ‘Boss Lady’ as she was called basically ran off with my baby for as long as she could before she returned him full of banana, with a clean nappy and made comical gestures for me to breastfeed him. I saw the range of products they make and the standard of their production which completely satisfied any concerns I had held. I saw that it was a large, tidy space with employees who appeared friendly and fairly treated. It was amazing to watch the many processes that the sheets of raw steel endure before being reinvented as a usable piece of furniture. Lastly, I was able to work with their very talented product designer to figure out the tiny details that would have been so hard to discuss by email.
I left having seen my first samples and more in love with lockers than before.