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Saturday, March 26, 2011

March 19

Our first full day in Hong Kong was filled with a great mixture of business and pleasure along with a touch of rainy weather. It began at the Li & Fung office, one of the companies that have so generously sponsored our trip. We were exposed to their business model and got great insight to their successful marketing strategies.

For example, some of the more striking aspects of the presentation was how the divisions in Li & Fung, specifically the Toys “R” Us franchise, take innovations in social media to fast-forward their marketing strategies. In Hong Kong, where smart phone penetration is over 70% (wow!) Toys “R” Us has incorporated elements of Facebook, Four Square and QR Codes to create a fantastic social media strategy which trumps many strategies US companies are doing now.

As a combination of business, retailing, and design students we were able to see how Li & Fung incorporates all of these areas of study to form a global brand which ignores boundaries and creates some of the most well known products in the world. And on a side note, thank you so much Li & Fung for the gifts you gave us during the presentation!


Following the presentation, we were let loose for our first free afternoon in the incredible city of Hong Kong. This city offers a plethora of opportunities to really get to know Hong Kong. We spent the day eating delicious food and made a stop to the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Of course there was shopping involved. Unfortunately, the prices here in Hong Kong were a bit more than the prices in mainland China, making a few of us regret not shopping more there! Overall we had a great experience and are excited to bring back our gifts to our families and friends.

Our tour guide in Beijing had mentioned to us that the Chinese find beauty in misty, foggy landscapes. Today solidified that idea perfectly. Examples of these landscapes were found throughout the art museum, but most strikingly, outside of the museum. The heavy fog and mist hovering above the high-rises and mountains along the water made us fall in love with the scenery as well. We’ll let the video and photos speak for themselves.


video


-Natalie, Jacqueline, Jillian and Pam

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March 18th


With our last few hours remaining in Shanghai the morning was free time and people were able to do as they pleased. Many people either decided to catch up on sleep, go to a “knock-off” market, or go to the Shanghai Museum. 
Being that the Shanghai Museum was free and a number of people decide to take advantage of the free cultural experience.  The museum contains around 120,000 pieces of cultural relics from China’s past dynasties – focusing more specifically on the Qing dynasty.  The museum was established in 1952, and the current building opened in 1995 with a circular design meant to symbolize a round heaven and square earth.  The museum was four levels with each wing of the floors contain various artifacts.  While the highlights are the bronze ware, ceramics, calligraphy, and painting, it also has excellent displays of jade, furniture, coins, and Chinese seals.  The exhibits that were particularly interesting were the calligraphy and the coins.  The calligraphy items were definitely the most numerous collection of the museum, almost taking up an entire floor all to itself.  Not only did you have calligraphy from different dynasties that showed the changes in particular styles and techniques but also to amount of art and designs that went with it.  People also enjoyed the calligraphy rooms because all the display cases were motion activated.  When you walked into the room it was completely dark.  When you approached a display case the light would slowly turn on to reveal the calligraphy roll behind the glass.  Thus, many of us took great fun in quickly walking by all the display cases and watching the entire room fill up with light.  To the Chinese, calligraphy is more than mere form of communication; it is one of the highest art forms.  The style of this cursive script was typically wild movements that combine delicate and forceful strokes to create Chinese characters.  The coin room was equally awesome not only because it displayed many different coins from China’s past, but also all the different ancient coins from surrounding countries that traded with China or had tried to invade China.  After a long time at the museum we returned to the hotel and gathered up the rest of our luggage and headed toward the airport.  The lines at the airport moved very smoothly and we were able to get through with no luggage being overweight.  The flight was easy and short with food service that consisted of fried rice with shrimp, orange juice, and red bean dessert.  We were also served a bun/ piece of bread that many of us thought was just a plain old dinner roll.  Only to discover that it had meat in it – first and only experience with a Chinese hot dog.
                  We arrived in Hong Kong and immediately there was a different feel to the city. Hong Kong has a much more Western feel than Shanghai and Beijing due to the long British influence. It was raining when we arrived and the climate overall felt much different. It was much warmer and also quite humid. During the bus ride to the hotel the first view of the skyline was incredible and the large electronic billboards lit up the city: picture Times Square but on an even more massive scale and with mountains in the background. Needless to say the view of the city is incredible and unbelievably massive.
                  Being that it was such a long excursion to Hong Kong many of us were exhausted and did not do much other than eat dinner and go to bed. A few of those who ventured away from the hotel saw people doing fan dancing on their way to the restaurant. This was really interesting and certainly not something you see regularly if ever in the United States. Overall it was a tiring day of traveling but packed with new experiences much like every other day of this trip. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March 22nd

    After nearly two weeks of life abroad, our last full day in China has concluded. It began with a long bus ride, broken only by a trip through customs as we crossed the border between the once British-ruled Hong Kong and mainland China. The two hours were spent in near silence as we all caught up on some sleep. Pictures of the Great Nap were too embarrassing to post here. Our friends on Facebook may be treated to the images however.

    Our destination was the Clever Metals and Plastics Factory, a major producer of picture frames for Kohl’s Department Stores. The factory, while not heavily automated (labor intensive), was incredibly efficient. The approximate output per month was said to be three million pieces, made more impressive by the variety of the frames being produced--the flexible tools at the factory allowed for the use of aluminum, steel, zinc-alloy, and wood as raw materials for the frames. The finishing touches on the products were the most labor intensive. We personally observed the by-hand application of plastic jewels to some more flamboyant frames.





    Following the tour, we ventured forth to our final group meal abroad. The East Sea Seafood Restaurant in Shenzhen was our venue, and the traditional food they served us was a good summary of our diets for the last two weeks. Of note, the final observation of the mysterious orange fish was made. Please whet your appetite with the pictures below...







    After lunch, we headed to our final Li & Fung office visit in Shenzhen. The Li & Fung staff that presented to us worked on the Kohl’s team and presented on the Kohl’s Apparel Production Cycle. Li & Fung manages 28 private and exclusive brands for Kohl’s. We were surprised that Li & Fung has 671 people working with Kohl’s in 25 offices around the world. Li & Fung partners with Kohl’s for close contact with the vendors throughout the process to ensure quality products.
 

    After going back through customs we had time for a quick dinner and then karaoke. Karaoke in Hong Kong is different from that of karaoke in the US. The main difference was that we got our own room, which was very nice. The room had couches, TVs on every wall, a drum set, and multiple microphones. This was a great group bonding experience and a way for everyone to let loss their last night on the trip.



    It is hard to believe it is our last day and tomorrow we will be flying back to America. We feel fortunate to be apart of this trip, and have memories that will last a lifetime. Not only did we form memories with new friends, but we learned from hands-on experience that will be of assistance in future careers and endeavors. We would like to thank Li & Fung for being gracious hosts, Kohl’s for supporting the trip, the factories that allowed us to go behind the scenes, and the UW faculty who journeyed with us. Thanks for following our trip and we will see you all when we get back. Farewell China and Hong Kong! 

- Jenny Wenzlaff, Avery Wine, & Ben Wood

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 20th: A Tour of Hong Kong


Sunday is usually day of rest, but not for this group of UW students. We had our cameras out and ready for a busy day of sightseeing. The day started early with a “group gathering” at the hotel where Nancy enlightened us with the history of Hong Kong. For two hundred years Hong Kong was a British colony, which explained much of the Western influences present in the city. It worked in some way like a lease, and in 1997 that period of leasing ended. Now, Hong Kong is a special operating region and is in a fifty-year transitional period, as it works to become part of China once again. We also reviewed what we had seen and learned thus far on the trip and made suggestions for what might work well on future excursions to China.


Following the gathering, we boarded our coach and began our trek through the city of bridges and tunnels to the Big Buddha. There are five Big Buddha statues throughout China, providing a place of peace and tranquility for Buddhists and tourists alike. In order to get to this site, we took a twenty-five minute cable car ride up into the mountains where the Buddha and a holy temple resided. Through the overcast skies and fog, the views from the ride were incredible. As we dangled in the air, over both land and water, many of us secretly thought about what would happen if the cables were to give way. Perhaps we could have joined the few brave tourists who decided to do the five-hour plus hike through the mountains to the temple.





Once we were off the cable car, we proceeded to climb over two hundred stairs to the Big Buddha. The Buddha we visited was in the Southern part of the country and faced north towards the other four Buddhas. After greeting the Buddha, we descended down the stairs and entered the temple. There we were instantly attracted to the smells of burning incenses and fresh flowers and the sounds of chanting prayers. We then sat down for a lunch full of tofu, bean curd, and vegetables in the temple’s dining hall. After our meal, we quickly took a look inside the beautiful place of worship full of golden statues, exotic flowers, and colorful decorations.





Leaving Big Buddha behind, we then drove to the south side of Hong Kong Island. This side of the island was noticeably different from the northern side. The area holds many of the best beaches and is where many of the city’s wealthiest call home. We spent an hour or so shopping and eating at the infamous Stanley market, and even got to sneak a quick peak of the home of Jackie Chan. We all wished we had a little more time there, because it was an exhilarating area, with a more cultural feel than other parts of Hong Kong due to the lack of skyscrapers from our sights.




We then rushed through the city to the sea, in order to catch our ferry tour of the spectacular Hong Kong Harbor. We were all captivated by the city lights and were even further surprised by the laser light show that occurs promptly at 8:00pm each evening for fifteen minutes. The night sky was brilliantly lit, surely making it a tour that we will never forget.


After all of this, one may think that we would have called it a day, but we still did not have enough of what the intriguing city had to offer. We drove from the harbor to the central area of Hong Kong, in order to climb Victoria’s Peak and view the city from its highest point. We went all the way to the top and quickly discovered that a blanket of fog had covered any chance of a view. Hoping for a brief look at the skyline, we traveled back down to the halfway point and were again amazed by the evening lights of the city of Hong Kong.




Even though, this day couldn’t have been much busier, we immensely enjoyed all that we got to experience. It was a once and a lifetime opportunity, and we are all very grateful for the time we got to spend discovering all of what Hong Kong had to offer.

 ~ Kailey Smith, Michael Stallsmith, and Jairus Shaw


Monday, March 21, 2011

March 21: Manufacturing Monday


Today was our first sunny day in Hong Kong! We started off the day with a presentation and tour of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. This university is known for its "three-legged stool" approach to design: a fusion of fashion technology, fashion design, and fashion business. A 4-D movie presentation highlighted some of the University's innovative work, using a technology which surpasses most of that seen at universities in the United States. Anne, the marketing officer, took us on a tour of the program's facilities, where we were able to see the studios and workshops for the University's second largest degree program. The Textile and Apparel Design student were quite impressed, and Jerry had a hard time pulling them away from the amazing showcases.


At the 4-D presentation

A show room at the HKPU

 















After a tasty lunch at the University, we were treated to a presentation by Meg Side, Product Manager, and Pero Lee, Design Manager of Simply Vera for Kohl's who operate out of the New York Design Office. They gave us an inside look into the product development process for Simply Vera's fall line. There was definitely an emphasis on being detail oriented, following up and communicating, concepts important to many careers. It was great to see an actual Tech Pack and gain an inside view into what it is like to design for such a recognized brand. Then we learned about amazing career and internship opportunities at Kohl's from Liz and Melissa as we made our way to the factories.

Walking to the CFL
Hearing about the design process made us eager to learn more about clothing production along the supply chain. The denim factory, Central Fabrics Limited, was especially interesting as it gave us insight into the early stages of clothing production- textile manufacturing. When we arrived at the factory we were greeted with earplugs and face masks. No photos were allowed inside the factory but we witnessed the weaving, dyeing and finishing processes that go into making this everyday wardrobe staple. Jeans are not actually made at the factory, but the 1,600 yards of denim made per day go to factories that produce jean products for Gap, American Eagle, Silver and the like. During the Q & A session we were provided with an interesting juice box assortment that included melon flavored soy milk and chrysanthemum tea.




Beautiful view of the harbor, on our way to the L + H Sweater factory.

On the way to the sweater factory we witnessed a beautiful view of the harbor. This factory was unlike the previous ones we have seen on this trip, as it was much smaller and produced knit-wear, such as sweaters, hats and scarves. The factory called Love Plus Hope manufactures their own brand of apparel as well as apparel and accessories for luxury retailers. Love Plus Hope is a manufacturing business focused on financial and social sustainability. This company provides job opportunities for people with manufacturing skills in an area where these jobs are few between. It was fascinating to see a factory that can maintain such a high level of standards while still reaching the bottom line.

At the L + H Sweater Factory

Li & Fung USA hosted a dinner for us at the Watermark Restaurant which provided amazing views and awesome food. It was a great way to end the day. Students were treated to several courses, and many had the opportunity to talk with Deborah Vinson, Senior Vice President, and gain more perspective on the workings of Li and Fung.

Some of the ladies at the Watermark
Ali Wangard, Anna Turner, & Julia Vasylenko

Sunday, March 20, 2011

DAY 5 (3/17): Shanghai


Today was another great day! There was a good balance of factory tours and free time to further explore Shanghai. The group met in the lobby of our beautiful hotel (shown below) at 8AM after a huge, gourmet buffet breakfast.

 Here the boys wait for the bus to arrive, wide awake and ready for another day of touring.

We headed off for our 2 1/2 hour bus trip to the Jiangyin Shule Hometextile factory where we were greeted with a very warm welcome.
The tour started with a brief presentation by the "big boss" of the company who addressed us in Mandarin while his colleague interpreted.
After the presentation we were guided through the various production facilities. We were impressed to see how environmentally friendly the company’s methods are. We learned that they have received the Environmental Impact Appraisal Certificate from the city of Jiangyin. They also have environmental management system training where they stress the importance of energy and water conservation, recycling, and waste reduction.
It was also amazing to see how many steps there are in producing these home textiles. One of our guides was especially excited for our group to “feel the magical power” of the machines, which worked on an enormously large scale. From singeing to dyeing, printing to bleaching, sewing to quilting, the companies production process is expansive.
After the tour of the actual manufacturing equipment, we got to go inside to see some of the product offerings. One of the especially exciting products that we got to see was the official bedding used for all of the athletes in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. 

After the tour, we were escorted to the dining room where we ate with some of the company’s employees. We sat with Derek (pictured below) who aids in the factory’s partnership with Kohl’s. He hopes to visit the Kohl’s Menomonee Falls headquarters in December so we were sure to warn him about the brutal Wisconsin winter weather. 

After lunch, we thanked the company, said farewell to our new friends, and jumped back on the bus for the journey back to the hotel.
The rest of the night was ours to enjoy. A group of us headed to the bar next door for a celebratory St. Patrick’s Day drink with our new pet panda Bruce (pictured below.)

After that, like all good retail students would, we ventured off for more shopping! One of the most memorable stops was at a local shoe store where we faced HUGE language barriers with the shop owners. There was a lot of pointing and hand gesturing used and the only English said by the owner was a comment on our “big American feet.” 
Finally, we ended the night with pizza and a movie in the hotel (pictures below of the AMAZING accommodations!) to take a break from our Chinese cuisine. It was a fabulous and relaxing way to end our stay in Shanghai and we can’t wait to see what Hong Kong has to hold!

-Bethany Mielke & Anna Lautmann


Day 5- Jiangyin Shule Hometextile Co Ltd


March 17th
  
Today our only scheduled activity was a factory visit of Jiangyin Shule Hometextile Co Ltd. The factory manufactures sheet sets and quilted comforters for Walmart, Lifung & Dorma, BBB, IKEA, Kohl’s, Macy’s, and JCPenny. Our Chinese hosts had a warm welcome prepared for us at the factory.


 All of the students and staff loved the interpretation of the Center’s name. Maggie’s English was very good, but the written materials reminded me of the language barrier we face in China. Chinese pronunciation and character system are very different from English. This makes it difficult to even learn key phrases or find locations marked by signs with Chinese characters.

I was asking Nancy, our professor, about the differences between English and Chinese. She explained that each Chinese character is a word or syllable and multiple characters can be combined to form different words. Also, the same word may have a different meaning depending on its context. This made sense to me because I learned in my professional communication class that China has a very high context culture in general. Also, characters must be memorized instead of learning the alphabet and using it to sound out words. This idea fits with the different teaching styles of the US and China. I have heard that learning in China is more focused on memorization from my Asian classmates at Madison. My experience is that the US is more about learning the concepts to apply and thinking through things yourself.

At the factory, the tour started with a short introduction from “Big Boss” and presentation from Maggie, a Chinese merchandiser on their Kohl’s account. She walked through the different design processes and machines. We also learned that the factory has an Environmental Impact Appraisal Certificate. The factory conserves energy, water, recycles paper, and reduces all waste to landfills. When we actually walked around the facilities, I was not familiar with the process and many of the machines just looked like very large roles spinning large fabric sheets. I wish I could post pictures, but our hosts asked us not to take pictures on the tour. 

It was interesting to have design students on the trip because they were able to explain some of the machines and processes that they have learned about in class. I asked Kailey Smith, a textile design major on the trip, about how this visit related to her studies in Madison.

Did you recognize the processes we saw in the factory?
“I definitely recognized the process. It was very interesting to see it first hand after learning about it in class.”

Do you think this will help you with your major when you return to the US?
“It seems that now I will have more of a connection to the machines and processes as I have viewed the end result of the textile design process. I now know that there is a place for me in this industry in the future and I more clearly see how I will fit into it.“

After the tour, we had lunch in the company’s client dining room. Maggie was at my table and we asked her about life in China. She said that traditional Chinese meals really are family style like we have been eating in restaurants here. Every person in her family will have a small plate of rice and eat directly from shared main dishes in the middle of the table.

I enjoyed our trip to the home textile factory in Jiangyin. We learned about the textile manufacturing process, environmental initiatives, the language barrier, and about traditional Chinese meals.

 Post written by Carly Miller
            

Friday, March 18, 2011

Shanghai





It’s day two in Shanghai and we continue to be amazed at all of the unbelievable experiences each new day has brought us.
We got a later start today; which gave us the opportunity to recover from the 3am wake-up call yesterday morning while also giving us some time to explore around the hotel. This afternoon we toured Chutex, a garment manufacturing company that works hand in hand making clothing for large retailers such as Gap Inc, JC Penney, and Kohl’s. Chutex employs over 3,000 people and produces an average of 2.5 million pieces each month.
Mike, the owner of the company, began by giving us a detailed presentation about what occurs in the factory and then gave us through the entire facility. The work conditions in the factory were much different than we envisioned. The facility was extremely organized and clean and offered its employees a positive work environment. Mike explained that each employee works no more than an 8 hour shift and is given on site housing and food. Additionally, they are paid at least minimum wage and have the opportunity to earn more based on their level of productivity.
We saw each step of the manufacturing process, from fabric inspection to packaging. Along the way we saw big bolts of fabric being inspected, apparel patterns being printed and cut, clothing detailed and screen printed, sewing, and finally being packed to ship.  The tour provided all of us, regardless of major, a unique and valuable learning experience.
During the evening hours we had free time to further explore some of Shanghai’s sites and downtown areas of interest. A group of students went to a famous shopping district and enjoyed browsing through the local markets, while other students relaxed and stayed closer to the hotel. The students who went shopping also had the opportunity to try some of Shanghai’s unique cuisine. As we continue on our journey, we’ve been finding its better not to ask what exactly we’re eating but rather just branch out and take advantage of the whole experience.
Until tonight, our days have been spent with tour guides, which made it incredibly easy to get around the city, but tonight we split into small groups and took cabs to the market and restaurants. Most of the groups made it to their destinations without any issues. One group however got into a cab with a driver who spoke absolutely no English and found themselves being dropped off in the middle of a street in the wrong location. After two cabs and a lot of pointing, they finally found their way to the restaurant. I think we’ll all be a little more understanding of the challenges brought on by language barriers after this trip!
-Melissa LaBorde, Taylor Kuypers, and Preston Knapp

Beijing, March 13





Hello from Beijing, China!

Well, we have had a very busy and exciting day. We started off with an amazing breakfast buffet at our hotel and then traveled to the Great Wall. We were lead by our Beijing tour guide, Robin, and his stuffed panda bear, Bruce. The Great Wall was an unbelievable thing to see. The hike up was very intense with uneven, steep steps but it was very rewarding after we reached our destination. What an experience! The trip back down the steps was just as difficult as the steep journey was quite intimidating. It was definitely worth it, though, to be able to visit such an amazing attraction!





 


After the Great Wall, we traveled to downtown Beijing where we had lunch at the Courtyard Restaurant – It was delicious!



Next, Robin led us on a walking tour of Tinanmen Square and the Empire City. We are excited to be able to see the inside of the Forbidden City tomorrow. There is so much symbolism and history in each of the sites we have visited so far here in China and the Forbidden City will no doubt be similarily intreging.
 


After this, we were all able to put our bargaining skills to use as we experienced the Chinese Silk Market where we found great deals on purses, scarves, watches, and other souvenirs. This type of shopping took some of us a while to get used to - it was definitely a unique experience!



 




We finished our day with an elegant meal at Beijing’s number one duck restaurant, Da Dong. So far, we all seem to enjoy these group meals as they give us a great chance to get to know each other better as well as introduce us to some of China's traditional dishes. 
So far we have had a great time experiencing the dynamic culture in Beijing!

-Erica Anderson and Carolyn Breuer