More Than Directing A Factory - An Interview with Vincent Djen
What Vincent Djen does is so much more than directing a garment factory. He is an integrated part of startups and is passionate to inspire them and guiding them to find their own path in these times when technology is disrupting many perceptions and believes. He is an example proving that the vision does not always comes from brands to manufacturers; vice versa is also possible.
TCL - Looking to your background, we can see that your education has a heavy background of accounting and marketing. How did your path intersected with fashion and technology? Can you please tell about your story in this sector?
VD:I guess I’m the 3rd generation in my family that’s working in the fashion textile industry. My grandpa (on my mom side) used to work at a weaving factory in Shanghai. My parents found Cheng Kung Garments Factory in 1975 in Hong Kong after they moved there from mainland China. I guess I was born into the industry and when I was young; I would always go to the factory to do homework while my parents were working at the factory taking care of the productions. I guess I was quite familiar with the place and also the conversation as I often heard my parents talk about the industry and production while I was young.
I was actually an electrical engineering major before I switched to accounting & marketing in my 3rd year as I found out I was better at accounting & marketing. I had been taken quite many business classes while I was pursing my engineering degree despite, I did some internship on designing and testing analog wireless audio technology through the help of my older brother (he was an engineer.) I was in university where I found out I like both technology and business. I officially joined the company in 2005 and been working there ever since.
TCL: You say you had started FashionEx to help the brands in the fashion industry by supporting them in learning and growing in the disruptively changing world. Can you please give examples for these disruptive changes? How FashionEx mitigates the disruptive effects?
VD:The Chinese fashion industry is highly competitive and because of the strong supply chain of China and easy of e-commerce it is easy to start new brands. We were there to help them to navigate through the startup journey and to avoid mistakes so that’s why we founded FashionEx.We have helped startups from Japan and Singapore to learn and understand the local market, the up and coming trends, the technology and also to meet important potential partners that could be rewarding for them when entering the market.
TCL: Various titles you do have. One of them is Chief Strategy Officer in REMAKEHUB. “Circularity” and “Cradle to Cradle” are two concepts mentioned when telling about the missions of REMAKEHUB. By telling briefly about the missions of REMAKEHUB, can you please clarify what is the difference between these concepts? Can circularity dominate the coming decades and be the solution?
VD:Cradle to Cradle complement circularity further by incorporating concept of renewal energy, water usage, and social fairness. We are making new good products from waste as well as taking into consideration of the process, CO2, energy saving, etc. So, we are working towards providing brands and companies solutions in cleaning up waste and making these wastes into something valuable.
TCL: Generally, how fair are brands to manufacturers? Most brands are very demanding but still asking very tight prices. Many suppliers complain that they need to carry the cost of sustainability on their shoulders. As a manufacturer, is this a challenge for you?
VD:I think brands always demand the best price, the best products, and services from their suppliers. Target price sometimes really are not possible for some suppliers to meet unless the brand source at a different supplier or country.To survive in the industry, we have to invest into new products & services, sustainability, technology, employee training, education, etc. It is a big challenge for us as we need to keep our price competitive while investing into the future, only thing we can do is to find brands that are like what we do and willing to pay more for our products and services.
TCL: As a manufacturer how closely you are following the innovations in sustainable materials? Which new technologies are exciting you for future?
VD: I follow new developments in sustainable materials very closely and I also work on some of these developments with young startups as well as larger industry players who are developing new materials. There are many new materials entering the market but not many can be scalable as their feedstock maybe the key constraint. I see chemical recycling of cotton is picking up and some are ready for making collections.
I also think bio-based polymer will be a major material for textile down the road. But sustainable materials will also post a challenge for companies provide offshore manufacturing solutions as I believe circular economy is a local nearshore solution.
TCL: Some say we should stop using polyester because oceans are absorbing the micro-plastics due to laundry at homes. Can PES which is about the 50% of all fibres globally be replaced?
VD: Is not easy to replace PES as it is a very robust, scalable, and low-cost material. I think we can make a better PES that’s bio-based and so the micro-plastics will be degradable in natural settings.
TCL: Longevity is shown as the main essentials of a sustainable product. The wild capitalism is well known of its ambition to keep consistency in selling more by making short-life products and current economy is built on this structure. Can global economy survive with long-life products?
VD:I hope so as our current capitalism needs consumers to buy more and more to keep it going.I think that the fast growing of secondhand and rental markets show the products can have a longer life and more and more people will opt for this option.
TLC: There is an optimistic approach supported with almost all the people I had interviewed; they say with this pandemic, awareness about sustainability increased. But can awareness will be effective in behaviours? Will people choose sustainable products by paying more when they are probably earning less?
VD:I think cost of sustainable products will come down overtime as sustainability lifestyle is the new aspiration and new identity for modern consumers. People want to be seen as a responsible and sustainable consumer who cares about the overall wellbeing of the society and environment.