The intersection of technology and fashion design yields exciting results
Entrepreneurship is often perceived as an endeavor that requires considerable technical skills. Still, there are those pioneers who–despite not having the specialized experience right off the bat–believe in an idea strongly enough to pursue it and develop the skills on the way.
Although she did not have a tech background, Elaine Shiu wanted to innovate the traditional jewelry-making business. Her dream was to create a fashion brand that makes stylish, high-quality jewelry at a lower price tag by using design technology.
Ejj is Shiu’s second venture in the jewelry space, which she established in 2015. Intrigued by 3D printing, she spent a year and a half studying the technology, using the software, and understanding how the printer could produce fine jewelry.
The brand launched its first 3D-printed jewelry collection in 2018 and was the first brand in Hong Kong to utilize the technique. The collection was met with much fanfare, and the company received multiple industry awards, including a Hong Kong Cultural and Creative Industries Award and an A’ Design Award in 2019.
Ejj has since represented Hong Kong at multiple international Fashion Weeks, and also retails its products at the airport thanks to the support of CreateHK, a government program supporting creative startups.
“We’re very grateful for the boost that CreateHK gave us early on in our startup journey,” she says.
Ejj is experiencing increasing demand online, but both manufacturing and shipping to international customers have become difficult with the global COVID-19 lockdown. The manufacturing line is based in Italy–one of the worst-affected countries–and disruptions in flights and shipping routes have also presented problems. However, Shiu remains optimistic about the looming recession.
“Because we own the manufacturing line, we can control the cost and how many products we produce,” she says. “Some companies are crumbling because they cannot control their costs efficiently. For us, the advantage is that we control the manufacturing line and don’t rely on suppliers or producers–we are the creators.”
Ejj products are affordable luxury jewelry alternatives–priced between US$50 and $150–for the company’s target market of Greater China. Although the Hong Kong market is the primary focus, Ejj has set its sights on expanding in the Greater Bay Area–a nexus of 11 cities in the region. The company has opened a store in the southern-Chinese city of Shenzhen, and will be launching a new project–a retail location in Zhuhai selling multiple Hong Kong designers’ products–in July this year.
Though Ejj is still a relatively early-stage startup, with fewer resources than established players in the industry, Shiu is passionate about contributing to society and is involved in several non-profit projects. For instance, she is working on a pet-tech project which aims to develop pet accessories outfitted with chips in collaboration with the Hong Kong government’s tech department. The chips will provide pet owners access to such functions as GPS tracking, temperature checks, step counters, vaccination reminders, and more–all through a mobile application.
As part of another philanthropic project, she sponsors wedding jewelry for one financially-disadvantaged couple every month, teaming up with photographers and makeup artists to create a luxurious wedding photoshoot that otherwise would have been out of reach. She started the project in February 2020, but her plans have come to a halt because of the global coronavirus pandemic.
“I want to help them to have good memories of a lifetime event. It’s a really meaningful project for me,” says Shiu, adding that she intends to continue with the initiative as soon as the COVID-19 lockdowns are lifted.
Shiu is also the brains behind ‘Hong Kong Designers Society’ and helps designers from Hong Kong expand their business in the Greater Bay Area by connecting them with potential customers and providing legal advice.
“My aim is to promote ‘Hong Kong Design,’ and also to increase the business opportunities for local designers,” she says.
She is hoping that this initiative will receive more support over time, and welcomes ideas that may help more Hong Kong designers expand globally.
Monika is a journalist at Jumpstart.
Article written in partnership with Ejj Jewellery.