Denim expert Tilmann Wröbel was on the road again, this time in China. Here, the creative director and founder of the Monsieur-T. denim lifestyle studio based in Biarritz shares his impressions from this recent trip to the Far East:
“When travelling the world for denim, it is always a pleasure to discover new people, new personalities and oh so different profiles from country to country. Not only in know-how, but also in good will, enthusiasm, passion and dedication to denim. Let me take you with me on a recent trip to China, and discover a world of astonishing denim people.
Yes, there were times, when speaking about Chinese denim, it seemed to be all about copycats and knockoffs. But times have changed, at least for the leaders of Chinese denim. With more then one other Asian country giving China tough times in pricing, ready made garments and manufacturing speed, Chinese mills tend to behave like brands today and create their very own identity and product. Which is why I fly over there from time to time.
But this is not my thread here…. What I would like to talk about is the human factor. Because what we all know is that it’s really all about people in this world and about moods. You can have the best ideas and plans but if you do not have the right people or the right mood you won’t accomplish anything.
And this is particularly true in denim. I am sure you have been in this situation, where you present what you believe is a great denim idea–a new fit, a new wash, a new weave or a new trim… whatever… And you face people who look at you, politely, while thinking “I’ll make more benefits with the nuclear plants our group owns” or “In our country we have such great denim taste and ideas we do not need anything from elsewhere” or “Can’t we simply copy something similar?” (Choose your favorite option and link it to the region and people of your choice).
Luckily, today’s denim business is not only about these stranger-than-life moments. There are people and cultures, which sometimes against their reputation, flood your blue heart with sun and light.
These last years, when flying out to the so-called People’s Republic of China I noticed that the local denim playground was well nurtured with passionate, friendly technicians, reaching out to learn more and to embrace an authentic denim world, which they would sometimes only know from afar.
And yes, friendly and passionate people can be met quite everywhere in the factories and offices around our world, but what I noticed most in China is that unbelievable mix of efficiency, immediate action, friendliness and fun, which I encountered lately. And these people make it happen, from raw cotton, to yarn to dye, to fabric, to product and wash…. With a smile, with know-how, with laughter, with passion and a joy to work.
Lunch breaks are lunch breaks, not simply a pit stop where you slurp your al dente ramen noodles in a second because your culture obliges you to hurry back to work…. Or where you get your club sandwiches and hand-cooked crisps delivered straight to your office table. No, here and whenever possible, meals are shared in oversized restaurants, on the ever spinning revolving tray on a large round table. Your platter is filled with delicious food served with the serving chopsticks… jokes are made and well-being is shared…. Thus fueling your inspiration for the afternoon.
And it sounds evident that in such a positive, friendly and almost fun environment, everything goes faster, nicer, smoother. What seemed impossible to achieve becomes reality in the end. Things get done, and you jump onto the plane back home with a satisfied smile on your face.”
You might say: “But Tilmann, you live in France and the French have a total different attitude in business life.” Yes, maybe that might influence my perception of ultimate happiness and satisfaction at work, especially when thinking of the latest yellow jacket strikes in France, but that is another story… working in France…. LOL.