Kingpins Stories: Amy Wang – The Limitless Possibilities of Denim
When I was a teenager, I was deeply attracted by the ever-changing beautiful world of fashion. But my parents were engineers and it was their influence that made me want to be an engineer, as well. So when I had the chance to choose my major in university, I combined my passion for fashion and my love for engineering and studied textile engineering.
It was a rigorous and complete education in fabric formation, chemicals, textile machinery, colors and every aspect of textile production. I also loved my classes in fashion research that again made me want to combine factory knowledge with the world of fashion. It was this combined love and lots of hard work that enabled me to graduate with first honors in textile engineering.
JOINING THE JOB MARKET
After graduation in 1993, I interviewed at Advance Denim. At that time, Guangdong was the fastest-growing coastal province in China and Shunde was one of the fastest-growing cities within Guangdong. There were countless opportunities for young graduates of textile universities but I was so impressed with Advance Denim that it was the only job interview I attended. I was lucky enough to join the company — and I am proud to say that it is the only company that I have worked at and it is where my long journey with denim began.
I still vividly remember the day I went for my interview like it was yesterday. I was so genuinely captivated by the overall company culture and specifically the harmony of the workers and the impressive chairman. It was also very important to me that Advance Denim was the first denim mill to be established in China and was a dynamic, inclusive and innovative company with many opportunities to learn and grow as an employee.
DIVING INTO DENIM
After joining the team I started on the mill floor as a machine operator and a maintenance worker. I worked my way up to become a technician, craftsman, supervisor, then factory manager and director of R&D. During these years of hard work and training, I steadily learned that denim is a special fabric that not only has character and soul but limitless possibilities. I also learned that, even though we should respect the beauty and history of vintage denim, there are also opportunities to create denim that is more innovative and sustainable.
I am a very persistent person and I enjoy a challenge. I believe that no matter what your job is, you should strive to do your best. There have always been challenges and difficulties on my career journey — from school to the denim production floor, from a beautiful learning environment to the night shift at the factory. It was difficult for a young female graduate to adapt, but I always believed in what I was doing and loved the fact that I was learning a real craft.
In order to be an expert at your craft, you must devote yourself to learn every single element in the manufacturing process. It is hands-on experience, training and learning over a long period of time that makes you an expert. I embraced the challenges and training that were offered to me and that effort was recognized by the company. I also established a strong bond with my coworkers and supervisors as we faced these challenges together.
THE SALES CHALLENGE
In 2009, I was appointed to take on a new challenge with the company: Sales and Marketing. This was an even greater challenge given that the global financial crisis was affecting sales negatively and there were very few orders. Since I did not have any sales experience, my strategy was to learn as much as I could and work harder than anyone else.
In my previous responsibilities, I did not have to deal with people outside our manufacturing teams, so I found the outgoing nature of sales difficult and I started out very nervous and shy. I was also used to getting results right away in the mill. But within the first three months of hard work in sales, I saw little results and started to doubt if I could master this latest challenge.
However, I never gave up and my persistence started to pay off in the fourth month and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was truly a team effort and I was fortunate that my team was very united and supportive. Together, we developed many new products according to the needs of different markets and specific customers, using the newest innovations in fiber, dyeing and finishing. These efforts were ultimately recognized and validated by our customers and generated an extremely positive growth in overall sales.
NEXT STEP: EXPANSION
As a result of my hard-won sales success, I was promoted to General Manager by the board of directors in 2012.
After laying a solid foundation in the domestic market in China, it was time for a new challenge and we decided to expand our sales internationally. Since Hong Kong is an international hub for garments and textiles, it was our first stop to look for international business opportunities. It seemed that yet again I and my team were starting from scratch in an unknown market — it was daunting to say the least.
I implemented the same strategy of determination, teamwork and striving to be the best while being customer-focused to meet the challenges of international expansion. In time, we successfully set up export offices in Hong Kong, Amsterdam and New York to meet the different demands of each region. We also have participated in many international trade shows. The name Advance Denim is now well known by renowned global brands as a leader in innovation, quality and sustainability.
Driven by continuous self-improvement and customer support, we have maintained double-digit growth year-over-year. More important than the growth is our improvement in green manufacturing, employee welfare and enterprise scale. I am also extremely proud that Advance Denim has become one of only two mills in China to be a certified “The Green Mill” and the only denim mill in China that is a certified “Role Model of Printing and Dyeing Company.”
They say that when you find a job that you love you never work a day in your life. I love my job and I don’t find it tiring but endlessly exciting and fun. My greatest joy is seeing my team have breakthroughs and success with customers after working hard to gain their confidence and recognition. It is at these points that I see the growing confidence and joy in their work that make me realize that they enjoy work and life as much as I do. I am happiest when I can be a role model for their joy and, at the same time, be inspired by their hard work and dedication.
I must say also that I am lucky to have a family that supports me and I am grateful for their encouragement and understanding. I live together with my parents and my husband’s parents in the same house and I love cooking so much that I will cook for the whole family during the holidays and birthdays. My favorite part of the day is my evening walk with my husband when we discuss the day’s events. My daughter is currently at University, but we talk on the phone every day and are very close friends. I think it is important to put your family and friends in your heart, they will feel that love and support and give it back to you unconditionally. My family is, without a doubt, my motivation to move forward and continue my denim journey and it would not be possible without their support.