Professor Edwin Keh, a passionate advocate of technology for sustainability has been named the best of Inside Retail Hong Kong’s Top 50 Innovative Retail Leaders in Hong Kong for 2019, sponsored by Tofugear.
In a ceremony hosted by KPMG in Causeway Bay tonight (Wednesday) Professor Edwin Keh ( pictured above) and four other experienced retailers were recognised for their innovation in the industry.
Professor Keh is the founder of Garment to Garment (G2G) which has developed technology that can sit inside a retail store and literally recycle clothing in front of the customer.
The system – of which there is a working model in a store at The Mills at Tsuen Wan – sanitises each returned garment then breaks it down into different components which can then be used as raw materials in new clothing products.
A viable pop-up retail experience, G2G aims to inspire recycling among consumers and reduce the enormous amount of waste in the fashion industry.
After a career working in senior roles in supply-chain management and procurement with leading international retail companies, including Wal-Mart, Payless Shoesource and Country Road, Professor Keh became a leading advocate for sustainability in fashion.
The Mills founder recognised
Number 2 on the list of the Top 50 Innovative Retail Leaders in Hong Kong 2019 is Vanessa Cheung, founder of The Mills, which hosts several ventures founded by people on this year’s list.
Cheung, Group MD of Nan Fung Development, is spearheading a revolution in how the fashion industry – and its customers – think about sustainability, the circular economy and upcycling.
The Mills is a landmark revitalisation project by Nan Fung Group in which an obsolete textile mill in Tsuen Wan has been converted into a modern retail space, nurturing startups and creating a destination for people interested in fashion, art, technology and lifestyle.
The Mills is home to innovative retail and fashion startups including G2G and Unspun (which makes denim jeans to order via body scanning and 3D printing).
The aim of The Mills is to provide visitors with a hands-on learning and experiential retail experience, promoting the maker culture and exploring the relationship between inspiration, innovation, fabrication and production.
AS Watson – a technology testbed
Third on the list of the Top 50 Innovative Retail Leaders in Hong Kong 2019 is Malina Ngai, COO of AS Watson Group, which has more than 15,200 stores worldwide.
The judges chose Ngai for leading multiple innovations in technology at the world’s largest health-and-beauty retailer.
The company is dedicated to pursuing new in-store and omnichannel strategies to protect its market share and ensure growth in a category considerably under threat from pure-play e-commerce companies.
The judges said that by using stores as working laboratories for innovations ranging from DNA testing programs, click-and-collect solutions, virtual makeup stations and automated checkouts, AS Watson is embracing technology as a driver of its business – rather than selecting one or two highly visible activities as a gimmick.
K11 Musea creator honoured
At number 4 is Adrian Cheng, founder of the K11 Group, who was recognised for the innovation of the K11 Musea development which opened last month at the Victoria Dockside. Described as a “museum-retail complex”, K11 Musea has been 10 years in the making.
Cheng is also executive vice chairman of New World Development and the grandson of its billionaire founder Cheng Yu Tung.
Besides his K11 passion, Adrian is co-founder of venture capital company C Ventures, which partnered with jeweller Chow Tai Fook and New York startup Flont to launch a jewellery-rental service in Asia, enabling consumers to discover and wear high-end jewellery they may not be able to afford to buy.
This year, he was appointed the first global ambassador of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, with a mandate to support American designers as they seek growth for their brands overseas.
The best of pop-up stores
Fifth-ranked of the 50 people on the list is Adam Hershman, GM Greater China, APAC Distribution and Travel Retail at premium travel lifestyle brand Tumi.
Hershman spent most of his professional life working in the luxury retail sector in the US before taking the helm regionally of Tumi six years ago. During that time he has driven phenomenal growth in both brand awareness and sales for the brand, whose technically complex and visually stunning pop-up stores in Hong Kong have already won several awards.
The pop ups have included features such as giving guests the chance to create selfies with actor Chris Pratt via an app with a 3D avatar of the star, and a host of other interactive features, customisation opportunities and workshops.
Inside Retail Asia director of content Robert Stockdill said the calibre of finalists in this year’s awards was the highest of the three years the publication has been produced.
He praised the professionalism and commitment of the retailers who made the list.
“As retailing gets ever tougher and many external and demographic factors take their toll – especially in Hong Kong – innovation is essential.
“In retail, change is all around us. The innovators among us are those who recognise that and who instead of seeing a problem, see an opportunity.”
Stockdill said what this year’s listees shared in common was an ability to think outside the box.
“Innovating is all about finding a way to do something new or better than your competition. Innovating is all about keeping pace with technology, with the fickle rising generation of consumers – not only the emerging Generation Z, but the fast-growing group of consumers who are demanding more transparency in brands, who are looking for ways to reduce their impact on the environment – especially in fashion – or who are changing their diets.”
The Top 50 Innovative Retail Leaders in Hong Kong 2019 publication was created by Inside Retail Hong Kong, with the support of platinum sponsor Tofugear, silver sponsor China Telecom, strategic partner KPMG, research partner YouGov, trophy sponsor Samsung and coffee cocktail sponsor Illy.