Launched in 2014, Cynthia & Xiao is a Hong Kong-based knitwear label founded by two female designers – Cynthia Mak and Xiao Xiao, who are from Hong Kong and Beijing, respectively. The duo met while studying at London’s Central Saint Martins. Distinguished by its bold and playful style, the label was selected as being one of the Ten Asian Designers to Watch at Fashion Asia Hong Kong 2018. For the spring/summer 2019 collection, called The Bad Habit, Cynthia & Xiao collaborated with Korean illustrator Minkyung Lee to create quirky and vibrant iconography. CDLP spoke with Mak about the challenges of cracking the Chinese market and why Hong Kong shoppers don’t always support their local designers.
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Is the Chinese mainland the main focus for your brand these days?
Well, we were showing in Paris, London and New York, but three years ago we went into the mainland. We luckily found a showroom that could help us. The mainland’s market is hard, because stores are very new; brands might not have a website, just WeChat. But sales have grown from our first season to now and it has been significant. The mainland has overtaken my orders from Europe. And of course, the scale is different. We have around 25 points of sale there now. So yes, we’re focusing more and more on the mainland.
Do you design especially for the mainland market?
We do tailor some of our designs, yes. I sometimes follow trends, but we care more about ourselves and our feedback from the buyers, who will tell us what sold well last season. We take that and move forward. But if the buyer says a particular fit works, or a certain color, we will expand on those things. So we take about 50% of outside advice and add 50% of our own ideas.