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Q&A: Kitayama - Hexin Mao

Kitayama Co-Founder: Hexin Mao

Why did you choose to create a leather goods brand?

I am not learning to design myself, but I am very interested in design. I always hope that I can find a way to present my own understanding of design and leather products. Branding is the best way. The choice of leather was due to the influence of some traditional handmade leather goods brands in Japan and Europe I learnt and experienced during my student days. At that time, the craftsmanship of handmade leather goods was very fascinating. I hope to make a refreshing leather goods brand that can integrate traditional methods into my designs

What is your brand positioning? Has there been any significant experiences since Kitayama’s launch?

In fact, when we first started, there was no clear positioning. Our original idea was to make a design that was in line with our own aesthetics. Before the launch of the first series, I was very embarrassed as I didn't know if people would like it. However, after the series launched, we experienced unexpected praise. We found that the products we made according to our own ideas were accepted by many young people like us, and gradually strengthened our confidence. We still want to be a label that young people like, stylish and easy to use, rather than pretending to be high fashion.

What is the most difficult problem you faced in the creation your brand?

The problems encountered at each stage are different. For example, the initial stage considers how to better implement the product and how to solve the production problem. After entering the relatively stable stage, it is considered how the team expands and how to manage it. However, I think the most difficult thing is to consider how to balance design and business, how to make money, how to make the company not go bankrupt, and to operate healthily.

Sustainable fashion in Europe has become part of the education of cutting-edge designers and has gained popularity. What do you think of sustainable fashion?

Sustainable fashion is actually a reflection on the excessive material consumption and waste of human society, especially in the ever-changing fashion industry. At present, domestic Chinese brands actually have a lot of sustainable projects, such as the “re-making bank” initiated by designer Zhang Na, which allow them to regenerate into new designs by upgrading and re-envisioning old clothes. We are also currently thinking about some old package redesign projects or designing with more environmentally friendly recycled materials. I hope that more and more designers in China can pay attention to these problems.

What is your plan for Kitayma's future?

Kitayma has passed the small-scale personal studio stage. At present, we have more than 40 employees. It is a very professional brand company. In the next 3-5 years, we hope that Kitayma can have greater influence and become a well-known commercial brand.

What is the attitude of Chinese consumers towards fashion in your eyes?

What kind of fashion are they pursuing? At present, in first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, etc., the fashion of young people is not much different from that of foreign young people. Especially in recent years, the development of offline buyers in China has been very rapid, hundreds of thousands of buyers have opened their own stores, which has also given Chinese consumers a sense of fashion. But on the whole, domestic fashion is still in its infancy, but the future must be in China.

Is there any impact or change you would like your customers to experience through your designs? 

We didn't want to change anything. We just want to let everyone know that Chinese designer brands can be very original and very good.

As a Chinese brand, what do you think of China's domestic market and international market?

We feel that China's domestic consumer market has great potential. At this stage, our focus is still on the domestic market, but one day we will go out. Collaborating with Fashion Boundary is our chance to connect with the international market.

You are mainly selling online now, will you consider physical stores in the future? What do you think about the future online and offline retail industry?

We are considering opening a direct physical store, and the future online and offline stores will be a complementary. Simple online retailing is very fast and convenient, but as a brand, the service and experience of consumers is not enough. If it is only offline, brand communication and interaction with young people will be lacking.

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