Maison Garçonne
My first sourcing fair...

I got a bit excited early on in the piece and decided that I just had to go to Hong Kong to visit an apparel sourcing fair. I did need to find buttons and trims and they had a part of the fair dedicated to Japanese suppliers and I did want to find some more fabric suppliers.

I didn't really think through the whole idea and how much it was all going to cost. But I had paid for the airfare so I had to go through with the rest. So book it all I did.

Upon arriving at Melbourne airport I discovered that I had booked my flight on the inaugural flight to Hong Kong with Virgin Australia. There was a lot of hoo-ha going on but it seemed only the elite few in first and business got to experience most of the exciting stuff. Although we did get a block of chocolate and some complementary baked goods upon boarding, and who doesn't like a good mini pastry or two!

In addition to the pastries, we did get an impromptu Chinese lesson from Sir Richard Branson himself, dressed in a strange white outfit that made him look like a kid in some sort of martial art costume for Halloween. The excited Virgin staff ceased any attending on us and proceeded to take selfies with Sir Richard in the background whilst entertained passengers watched on. I found it hard to understand the whole excited anticipation, as we waited to see if Sir Richard was going to visit us in plebsville down the back. As really, he is just a rich oldish white man that owns few big companies. It was like we were waiting for royalty to arrive. But at least it made the trip go a little faster than it would've usually taken, so thank you Sir Richard for that.

Once I arrived I managed to make my way to my hotel without any ado. I spent the next few hours trying to decide where to have dinner. I so wanted to be adventurous and find some little gem that served amazing street food, but I'd spent so much time googling and reading everybody's recommendations of the best food in Hong Kong that I was, by this time, starving. So I decided to make my way downstairs and eat at the restaurant in the hotel. A little bit boring and more than a bit expensive, as I unknowingly ordered enough food for three people. I felt so stupid as I sat there by myself surrounded by food that I thought I'd better eat as much as I could so it looked like I meant to order it all. So understandably, I left the restaurant stonkered and feeling more than a little bit sick.

The next day was the fair. So I jumped on the train and followed the directions to Shenzhen. When I got to the end of the line I had to switch trains and go through border control. So I arrive at the border with no Visa, thinking Hong Kong is part of China yes? Didn't England give it back? Well yes and no.... Just to be confusing you have to get a separate Visa to visit Shenzhen, which is just over the border from Hong Kong. So back on the train for me with all my luggage to go to the other border crossing to sit in a small hot room and wait for a couple of hours to get my Chinese Visa.

So I finally get the Visa, walk over the border in to Shenzhen.

The first difference you notice between Hong Kong and Mainland China is that no-one speaks a word of English in China and that their internet is terrible. I was organised enough to have downloaded a translate app before I went and had even paid Telstra an extra $30 for the 3 days in China. But to my dismay, I found that I had absolutely no service wherever I went in Shenzhen, so my translate app was bloody useless. I also found out that they use different money and most of their ATM's don't accept international cards. So I couldn't speak to anyone, I had no Instagram for 3 days and I had pretty much no money... Not a good start.

I had arrived in Shenzhen in the morning and couldn't check into my Hotel until the early afternoon, so I had all my luggage with me when I arrived at the fair. I tried to find storage lockers but all the signage was in Chinese and no-one really understood me so I decided to start looking through the fair with all my luggage in tow. My of my least favourite things about trade fairs is the fact that you have to wear sneakers if your feet are going to survive the long days of walking. I don't have an outfit other than my trackies that looks any good with sneakers. So not only am I looking somewhat unattractive in my chinos and sneakers, I'm pulling along an ugly suitcase and sweating like I've just done a spin class. So needless to say, I didn't last that long on the first day at the Trade Fair.

The second day and third days at the fair were a little better. I managed to get around a bit quicker without the luggage and I was pretty much resigned to the fact that I wasn't going to look at all stylish throughout this trip and the god awful humidity meant that I was constantly covered in sweat. So I thought that I might as well get down to business.

I was surprised, that at such a big international sourcing fair, so little of the company representatives spoke any English. I had a hard time trying to talk with sales reps and had to resort to some sort of sign language most of the time. Most were extremely helpful in their signing, some just didn't even bother. 

All in all the fair was ok. Definitely not worth the expense and time visiting from a business point of view, but worth it for the experience: I got to see Karaoke booths for couples, a Hello Kitty cake shop, milk in light bulb containers labelled: church food?? and pizza with avocado. I wanted to free a bundle of turtles in the meat market and I got sick on the all you can eat buffet at the hotel.


February 02, 2018 by Kate Thornell