In an industry that is usually reluctant to change there a few leaders who have the foresight to adapt to changing times and challenging markets.
Hong Kong-based Lever Style is one company that made the leap – from traditional family owned apparel manufacturer to a cutting edge fashion company.
After completing his studies in the U.S. and working in investment banking, Stanley Szeto made what looked like an unlikely decision and by-passed the glamour of the financial industry to return to Hong Kong to run his family’s manufacturing business. He brought with him the vision and skills needed to propel the 50 year-old company into a new era global fashion producer.
Fast & Flexible
“It’s a matter of speed and flexibility versus cost,” said CEO Stanley Szeto, explaining how he re-engineered his company’s garment manufacturing process. “We’ve increased our workflow efficiency by implementing new practices such as moving from a piece rate system to one that’s based on group incentives.” This system provides a work-around in case a worker on the line steps away. When workers are working as a group, other workers can easily take over when another is away enabling the workflow to continue.
With a workforce of over 7,000, the company produces over 10 million garments annually for international brands including Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, J Crew, Ralph Lauren and Paul Smith and other labels in the U.S., Europe, Japan and Australia.
In addition to ramping up production efficiencies, Mr. Szeto realized that design development was becoming an integral part of the service that his buyers were looking for in a “manufacturing partner.”
“We have invested in providing design concepts for our customers,” said Mr. Szeto. “Design plays an important role in product differentiation. “Lever Style has a young design team who understand what today’s customers want. We are able to provide our customer with a total package from design to fabrics and trims.”
Originally focusing on men’s dress shirts, with its acquisition of Trinity, a maker of suits and outerwear, Lever Style has expanded horizontally into complimentary categories that their customers would be interested in. “By doing this we can produce a wider range of products for our customers which enables them to consolidate and work with fewer suppliers,” said Mr. Szeto.
Staying on Top of a Global Industry
A key player in the global apparel industry, Mr. Szeto has been subscribing to Inside Fashion for over six years. “Inside Fashion provides industry-relevant studies that give insights into what’s happening in the global business. It’s a valuable source of analysis, rather than just news, and provides me with an overview of developments in the key international markets,” he said.
Mr. Szeto and Lever Style’s commitment to the apparel industry goes beyond simply producing well designed garments with a more efficient workflow. Mr. Szeto is a founding member of Hong Kong’s Sustainable Fashion Business Consortium. The company has invested in “greening up” their operations and earned the SA80000 certification for social compliance, as well as receiving the Silver Award from the World Wildlife Fund for their efforts to minimize their carbon footprint.