Born: Mann Lai-Yin in Hong Kong, China, 13 August 1946. Education: Good Hope School, Hong Kong, 1962-65. Family: Married David Hsu Kin, 1974. Career: Model; Fashion coordinator and merchandiser, 1972, junior stylist, 1973, chief designer for Roncelli and R-2 labels, 1974-77; formed own company, Cheetah Management, June 1977, with Judy Mann, J.M. Diffusion, and Cheetah labels; showed first collection in London and Paris, 1979; opened first boutique, Taipei, 1984; cofounder, 1984, chair, 1984-85, 1989-95, Hong Kong Fashion Designers Association; marketing, advertising and promotion consultant, Continental Jewellery Ltd., Hong Kong, 1989-91; chief editor, Videofashion (Chinese version), Hong Kong, 1990-91; fashion consultant, Romano Group, Hong Kong, 1991-92; formed Beijing Charisma Fashion Co. Ltd., a joint venture company with the Chinese government, with outlets in Beijing & Shanghai, a production factory in Canton, 1993; formed the Consultant Group, 1998; signature fragrance, Judy Mann. Exhibitions: Hong Kong Design Gallery (permanent collection). Awards: Ten Best Dressed Personalities award, 1977. Address: Cheetah Management Co. Ltd., 5/F East Wing, 14-24 Wellington Street Central, Hong Kong, China; Website: www.judymann.com.
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I design for young executive women who are alert to fashion trends, but by no means a slave to them; who know what suits them and want to look presentable and efficient, yet stylish and sophisticated. My objective is to offer quality clothes at affordable prices.
My designs have to reach most women, not just a limited number…. My collection very much reflects my own lifestyle, a working woman of the modern days. I like very simple silhouettes with perfect cut, quality fabric, and good color coordination. I prefer separates and coordinates to dresses, as they give customers more flexibility; colors you don't easily get tired of, which will last more than one season, and still look elegant and stylish; clothes that you can always change the look of by adding different accessories.
I don't believe that only intricately designed clothes can make a woman look outstanding. A well-coordinated, simple outfit can achieve the same effect, or better…. As a designer, it is important to know your clientéle, to know how to put a collection together— concept, sampling, fabrication, coloring—and make sure it can be put into production. We are not from the tailoring era. We are the age of mass-or semimass production. My design inspiration comes mainly from the lifestyle of modern women, things happening around me, and the culture of my own race and that of others.
Judy Mann is an influential figure in Hong Kong fashion. As a designer, fashion merchandiser, and coordinator, cofounder and two-time former chair of the Hong Kong Fashion Designers Association, she knows her business very well. After graduating from the Good Hope School in Hong Kong in 1965, Mann became a model, a job that helped her learn the importance of market awareness and of being aware of her clientéle. As Mann herself says, "Most women are not built like catwalk models, so I believe in workable styles, easy to make and easy to wear." She quickly moved behind the scenes, taking a job as a fashion coordinator and merchandiser at Thayer International New York in 1972, and worked her way up the chain to junior stylist (1973), and then becoming the chief designer for the Roncelli and R-2 labels of that company from 1974 to 1977. Along the way, however, she did find time to get married, to David Hsu Kin, in 1974. Three years later, Mann formed her own company, Cheetah Management Co. Ltd., beginning with the Judy Mann, J.M. Diffusion, and Cheetah labels. She showed her first collection, mostly made of silk, in London and Paris in 1979. Mann worked hard over the next five years, designing her own lines and eventually opening her own boutique in Taipei, Taiwan, in 1984.
Mann has also worked hard to help promote Hong Kong as a creative fashion center. In 1984 she was a founding member of the Hong Kong Fashion Designers Association, which she has chaired twice. The group has done enormous work over the last 15 years to dispel the image of Hong Kong as a production base by encouraging and promoting local fashion designers. Annual fashion shows, its "Young Talent award," Hong Kong Fashion Week, and regular contact between members have helped strengthen the designer's position in the industry. "Being a designer in Hong Kong is not easy—you have to struggle and struggle," for although there is a regular demand for new items, it is a small clientéle and they are quite difficult to please. Mann's position as a role model and a champion for more support of the local industry has paid off in spades with greater encouragement by the local media and increased financial backing than in years past. The worldwide exposure gained by local talent on the Internet has also helped immensely. Now, designers like Bonita Chung, Lulu Cheung, Arthur Lam, Walter Ma, Vivienne Tam, William Tang, and Danny Yu dominate the local scene and enjoy some international success as well. Hong Kong fashion has come a long way in a short time and is poised to achieve much more in the new century.
Designing fashion garments has not been the only focus of Mann's career. She was the first Hong Kong designer to have her own perfume, Judy Mann, produced for her in Switzerland. She spent two years working with Continental Jewelery Ltd. as a part-time consultant responsible for marketing, advertising, and promotion. She had a brief stint as the chief editor of the Chinese edition of VideoFashion. She started her own fashion consultancy with the Romano Group, which owned over a dozen retail outlets in Hong Kong specializing in European menwear and womenswear. At the same time, she licensed her label to a local garment manufacturer, who produced three collections a year, founded a joint venture with the Chinese government called Beijing Charisma Fashion Co. Ltd., and opened outlets in Beijing and Shanghai and a production factory in Canton.
Although a businesswoman as well as a designer, Mann does know her customers very well. They are young professional women who want to appear efficient yet stylish. She specializes in coordinated daywear, separates, and informal eveningwear. It is a young, sophisticated look, which she calls "casual chic." The image reflects her own way of dressing. Simple silhouettes, quality fabrics, and colors that can mix and match are her trademark. Although her collections reflect seasonal trends and colors, half are classics, in neutral easy-to-match colors that are guaranteed to sell. And yet, because Mann is a professional woman herself, sales are her motivation. "Every sketch I make has to be thought out, rethought, and then designed with a view to selling."
Mann works for export, chiefly to Europe, where she is fast gaining a reputation. Japan, Australia, and the Middle East are other major foreign markets where her garments can be found in specialty boutiques and stores. She designs a little for the U.S., but only in silk, a fabric not subject to quota restrictions. For the same reason, her first European collection under her own label, Cheetah, was also in silk. Nowadays she likes working in jersey, Swiss cotton, and Italian linens and wools, fabrics that are comfortable and travel well. Designing for export poses creative challenges; colors have to be chosen carefully to complement different skin tones. A neutral palette provides the basis for each season. In winter, black dominates, and in summer, white is heightened by brighter shades. The designs of Judy Mann continue to represent and champion the Hong Kong fashion scene.
updated by Daryl F. Mallett