Founder of HULA – Hong Kong
Central Saint Martins, BA (Hons) Jewellery Design, 1997
After graduating from CSM, Sarah went on to set up a studio creating her own jewellery, lingerie and swimwear brands before joining Lane Crawford and becoming the retailers Head of Creative Collaboration. Having experienced both sides of the fashion industry, Sarah knew the efforts that went into one piece – from design to production, as well as how fast seasons change once the product hit the shop floor. With this in mind, last year Sarah founded HULA along with her sister Vivien.
HULA is an online marketplace with a difference. Find out from Sarah…
What led you to come and study jewellery design at Central Saint Martins (CSM?)
I was always good at crafts and making stuff at school, so combined with the love of fashion, I thought jewellery would be the perfect mix. I also really admired the skill and chemistry attached to jewellery and was intrigued to understand how it was made. I didn’t get in the first time I applied, so took a year out to refine my portfolio, just so I could get in….. highly recommended!
What do you think was the best thing you took away from your time at UAL?
A great understanding of design, thinking outside the box, daring to be bold, independence, a go-get attitude, a lot of ambition and some of my very closest friends
What was the most important thing you think you did straight after graduation?
I set up my own studio, started my own jewellery brand and 18 months later, a lingerie and swim brand – both exhibiting at London Fashion Week and selling to high-end stores.
Having my own business taught me a lot and I didn’t waste any time doing it!
Last year you founded HULA in partnership with your sister Vivien. Tell us more about it
A few years ago, I started to realise that many of my colleagues in my industry didn’t know where nor have the time to, get rid of their unwanted designer pieces yet they were still hungry for new season, and space was getting tight in their typically small apartments.
Most of the items they had were either ‘new with tags’ or ‘never worn’ items – pieces that would be totally wasted if they were not resold or passed onto others.
I also had some pieces I wanted to sell and I searched online for this type of business in Hong Kong but realised there were next to none, especially one that felt modern and fresh, versus dated. It fuelled a passion in me to create a solution to offer these amazing pieces to others in some way, so I founded ‘theHULA.com’ and pulled my sister in to work with me.
HULA is a marketplace for the resale of designer womenswear, where sellers are by invite only industry insiders, so we ensure the very best edit and that our items are authentic. Plus 5% of our profits are donated to partnered charities with the option for customers to donate at the point of sale.
Our moto is ‘HULA benefits the seller, the buyer, the environment, and someone who needs our help!’
What is your biggest ambition for HULA?
I hope to make a social change, especially in Asia, with how people consume and discard fashion, to encourage people to value and purchase craft for longevity versus endless amounts of fast-fashion. HULA is not just a boutique, we are a sharing community where like-minded fashion-lovers can connect.
We will soon be looking to expand to other parts of Asia and worldwide and have exciting new services in the pipeline. What you see now is just the tip of the iceberg!
What are the most important things to bear in mind when it comes to starting your own business?
It isn’t easy and you will feel like you are going crazy some days…. but the rewards are so great that I promise they do balance this off! Try to start with a partner or another founder – it really helps to be able to bounce ideas off each other, as well as feel you are not carrying all the burden.
What do you love most about your work?
I love the agility, being nimble and moving at my own pace, having my own business fuels a desire and passion in me that makes me feel so alive. I have also personally want to be able to contribute in some way to people’s lives for the better, so having a social enterprise massively ticks this box.
For 9 years you were Head of Creative Collaboration at Lane Crawford. What advice would you give any graduates wanting to work with big brands such as Lane Crawford?
To collaborate with major brands as a creative, you will need to be able to show a professionally looking portfolio (your own website would be a good start), which has enough body of work and elements to enable the brand to visualize your ability and style. You should also be fairly flexible to work to a brief and depending on what it is you do, you might need to have a more commercially minded approach, without sacrificing the final results. Lastly you should not be too difficult to work with!
What do you think are the biggest advantages to living and working in Hong Kong as an aspiring creative or entrepreneur?
Hong Kong is a great opportunity for start-ups and making your mark in Asia, as it is the perfect clash of identities where mind-sets are starting to change and cool things are happening. It has a small landscape and therefore a tight community so word can spread fast, which could play to your advantage (but also a disadvantage if you provided a bad service!)
What have you been most proud of so far?
My proudest accomplishment is from concept to realisation of HULA – even though I previously owned a jewellery and lingerie business, founding HULA has been a very different and a much more grown-up experience, so a lot more challenging in many ways. The best feeling is that we are able to benefit others and make a positive impact on our planet!
What has been your biggest inspiration?
My family, community, kindness and a desire to create better change