Making waves

After just two seasons, Nikky’s Rocky Zhou stands out in a competitive market.

Rocky ZhouWhat’s your background?
In 1988 my father started a fabric business that I became involved in, learning the textile industry at an early age. I then decided to go to Canada as a co-op student: I wanted to create a position for myself in the fashion industry. When I graduated from the University of Toronto, I knew it was time to go back to China and develop a strategy to become a top fashion figure in my region, which is known for its craftsmanship, quality production and entrepreneurial spirit.

What was the concept behind Nikky?
The success of my first company, Cashmere Classics Inc. (which began with importing and selling fabrics), led to my relationship with Cardinal of Canada and grew into a large-scale topcoat/overcoat business. From there we expanded into Nikky, a total men’s collection (tailored clothing, shirts, ties, polos and knitwear). Currently we have showrooms in New York and Toronto. We have factories in Ningbo, China as well as our own retail location at the beautiful Dragon Hotel in Hangzhou.

Our mission was to be a global brand marrying the finest Italian fabrics with detailed handmade construction in China. I believe there’s an up-and-coming consumer looking for stylish, quality clothing at a sensible price. My vision is to bring the utmost level of sartorial excellence from China to the West.

How’s business?
Our spring/summer 2013 collection sold out in some stores before the end of April. Now that we’ve finished selling our fall/winter 2013 collection, I can proudly say we have points of sale in over 40 top specialty stores in the USA.

What were the best sellers for spring and the best-booked items for fall?
We had a fantastic spring sportcoat season, especially bolder patterns with new color accents. For fall ’13, best-booked items included wool and cashmere sportcoats in colorful plaids and windowpane patterns. Wholesales are $295 and $335 and most retailers mark it up three times.

How do you manage to make such high- quality clothing with so much hand craftsmanship at such value price points?
I decided to bring an Italian master tailor to my factory in China on a regular basis. He has trained and continues to train and educate my workers on how to properly construct a handmade garment. We take sensible margins and we pass on the value to the retailer and, ultimately, the consumer.

What are your plans for the business?
I opened my first Nikky flagship in The Dragon Hotel nine months ago and I’m very pleased with the results thus far. We are now looking into the next Nikky concept store, which we would like to open in New York by the end of 2014. We also hope to find true partnerships at retail for shop-in-shop concepts. We’ve also started the development of a Nikky Femme collection.

What can retailers do to jumpstart sales?
Male consumers have been led to believe that price relates to quality. I believe what many top retailers in this country are getting back to is giving customers quality, fashion, value and personal service. Retailers need to be merchants again, and find true manufacturing partners. Just as important: manufacturers need to become merchants and solidify their relationships at retail.

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