Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Coming to a casino near you, something to slip into

Posted by Kimberly on September 29, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
September 29, 2007, page 2 (1,192 words)

Richard Atkins is one of those people with a business idea that makes one wonder, “why didn’t I think of that?” When you add the fact that he’s also a partner in a sourcing company for manufacturing garments as well as being a designer for premium denim company The Proportion of Blu, you’ve got someone who probably never sleeps.
Baffies International, that company with the brilliant idea, manufactures slippers for hotel and casino chains. Not the sort of slippers that either never make it out of their packaging or get worn once and left behind.
These are designed to be taken home, with the sort of quality that ensures they won’t fall apart after one wear.
Speaking from Hong Kong, the 29-year-old said, “while I was living in Shanghai I came across several factories where they were manufacturing Las Vegas slippers.”
“We moved our view onto Macau for the hotel chains over there which is basically the same as Las Vegas chains,” adding that “it’s made it a lot easier with less quotas so we can get  a better price for our clients.”
The company currently has a joint venture with three factories at present, designing the slippers according to each hotel’s budget and class, “so it doesn’t break the bank.”
Set up around seven months ago, the company operates out of Shanghai and Hong Kong, with the opening of the Baffies Design centre in Shanghai last year, which Richard says “none of the factories seem to have in Asia.”
These initial months he refers to as “a real learning curve. I think it was the only item in the room that were really cheap costing-wise and they thought that was the only way,” he said.
It took some convincing to get the hotel’s directors to realise the necessity for better quality.
“For us to actually go into a hotel and explain this to the directors who are looking at their numbers, nothing about their image at that time, it was an up-hill struggle of understanding,” he said.
The company currently caters to about six of the big hotel chains including the Mandarin Oriental and Starworld.
The term “baffies” is actually the Scottish reference to slippers, with the cultural reference possibly coming from Richard’s Scottish wife and well-known knitwear designer Marianne Maclean.
Born and raised in Birmingham , England, Richard began his design career as a pattern cutter for Vivienne Westwood, having Richard graduated from the University of Central England with a First class BA Honours Degree in Fashion Design. This “gold label start” led him to work for the high-end ready-to-wear market, designing tailored business wear, sportswear and British high street fashion for some of the most recognised UK retailers such as Top Shop and Next.
His experience within this area helps with the second company, CNP Manufacturing, sourcing for the manufacturing of garments for such high end clients as luxury British brand Jaeger, Massimo Dutti and Polo Jeans.
Although the company, says Richard, is 15 years old, he joined as a partner and Creative Director about three years ago.
“We source fabrics and production for our clients. So we have a full vertical set-up for manufacturing,” he adds.
He credits CNP as being his “career move being in Asia.
“It’s very difficult to find a strong willing partner in Asia with the middle ground where we can both agree on everything,” having found one in Chris Ma, the founder and CEO of CNP.
Founded in 2002, Richard emphasises it’s all about quality, suggesting “it was very difficult to find a factory that understood quality, when they wanted quantity.
“That’s the Asian market,” he said, adding that CNP limits themselves to about 3000 pieces minimum.
Richard recollects having visited well over 400 factories, “where all they wanted to do was take orders,” adding that even the high end clients he had didn’t seem to matter.
“We’ve found a market niche where they do want to have that kind of clientele in the factory,” he said.
Yet despite such accomplishments it’s his last and most well-known that seems to find his name splashed across magazines as varied as Vogue, I.D. and men’s fashion magazine DNR.
The Proportion of Blu has one philosophy and that is the “Golden Rule,” which, according to Richard’s website is “a naturally reoccurring sequence of measurements and patterns found in the very building blocks of all life.”
No doubt those that have read or seen “The Da Vinci Code” will be familiar with the Fibonacci sequence and, in turn, the Golden Ratio.
Well, the jeans produced by the company for both men and women are the standard basic five-pocket jeans, but use that concept.
“Because the whole of our body is actually measured in that way, pocket placement and actual pocket sizes were mathematically made to fit the body,” he said.
Which meant taking four years to measure the rear ends of about 500 women, which allowed the company to get a median of what the standard size would be.
“And then we went to pattern-cutting to see what size the pocket should be to make the bum look smaller,” he added saying it’s basically an optical allusion.
“The first five seconds [of seeing it] reduces the bum by about 15 percent just as an optical allusion,” said Richard.
For those lacking a rear, it actually works in the opposite way, suggesting a more rounded area.
“It’s very strange and sceptical at the same time, but we can say, with our sales in the US and Japan, it works,” he added.
And those buyers include the likes of Brad Pitt, Rhianna and Kate Moss, with production levels now at 20,000 pieces after a start of 3,000.
The idea, which began as a conversation, turned into a hobby and ended up an obsession, led to Richard receiving the award in 2006 for innovative designer of the year by architectural magazine I.D. [Innovative Design].
“It was actually a big complement because it was among innovation from anything like car design to calculators. We were against these people,” he said.
And if that’s not enough accolade, he’s headed to Paris next week for Fashion Week to show the company’s recent branching out as a full collection and to break into the European market for the first time.
“The full collection will have elements of the concept in everything that will relate to the ratio,” said Richard, adding that it will include dresses, skirts and jackets, even gloves and ties.
Currently the label sells in the US and Japan for the past two years, particularly in Barney’s and Fred Segal among others as well as Joyce in Hong Kong and is expected to come to Macau within a year.
“We do sell in the Wynn in Las Vegas but they have their own boutique shop and that would probably be the ideal of what we’d be looking for [in Macau],” he said.
With the Venetian and its numerous stores yet to open, Macau’s fashionable set will surely be willing to put their hands into their jeans pockets were one of those stores to be The Proportion of Blu.

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One Response to “Coming to a casino near you, something to slip into”

  1. A great deal of enough time, persons save money than they save simply because they’re
    obtaining items that they don’t need and certainly
    will never use.

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