Sarah Fung - The Hula - Interview
Sarahs portrait by Laurent Segretier
Sarah Fung, Hula CEO + Founder, shares her exhilarating journey from corporate to running her own global fashion business.
'What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?’
The thing about having your own business is it really is down to you and what you decide to do every day, so if you don’t do anything then nothing gets done. Plus I have so much to do that I couldn’t possibly not get out of bed, no matter how cosy it feels!
How and Why did you start you The Hula?
I left Lane Crawford (luxury retailer in Hong Kong) a few years ago, disillusioned with the amount of clothing waste produced by the industry as well as amongst my friends and colleagues, who didn't know what to do with their excess clothing.
In Hong Kong and Asia, there are few options to retire your unwanted products, unlike the West, yet living spaces are extremely small. I am also a jewellery graduate of Central St. Martins, Art School and previously designed my own pieces, later my own lingerie label.
A small selection of the pre owned fashion goodies available on The Hula
Having experienced both sides of the industry, I knew the efforts that went into one piece; from design, production to market and I felt compelled to help prolong the life of well-designed fashion pieces to help reduce textile waste (the fashion industry is the second largest pollutant worldwide).
I wanted to solve this issue for Asia and set up an online platform for the resell of designer womenswear.
Building a mutual trust and positive customer experiance are at the core of what Hula strives for each day.
‘What does an average day look like for The Hula?’
I prefer to exercise in the mornings, ranging from yoga, cardio to weights which I try to make 3-4 times a week. I will schedule my meetings outside of the office also in the morning’s so when I do get in, I can be mostly uninterrupted apart from shoppers and sellers dropping by throughout the day.
My day would range from planning our E-blast with the team that is sent out every Friday, doing presentations, checking our New-In products with processing and photography, strategising and also seeing clients.
I usually finish work between 9-11pm unless I have dinners / drinks / networking which might happen 1-2 times a week.
The Hula - Beautifully Crafted and Content Rich, Fashion Forward Weekly Email
What inspires you?
The future, and being part of changing mindsets.
What do you enjoy most with running your own business?
It has to be the freedom I have (although I work much longer hours, take less holidays plus have less money than in my corporate job).. so you could argue that I actually have very little freedom!
‘Giving back’ Is important to The Hula, can you please tell us more about this initiative?
We offer 5% of net profits to charity and customers can donate more at check out if they wish. Hong Kong has a large disparity between rich and poor, and
people are generally quite unthoughtful when it comes to the environment, so I wanted to highlight some key issues to make people think a little, as well as promoting the charity.
Can you tell me about a time when you almost gave up, how you felt about that, and what you did instead of giving up?
When my sister who founded HULA with me left the business to move back to London. I was so distraught knowing that I no longer had my closest companion to talk to as well as having to do her job role on top of mine. I had also just taken on some external consultancy work during that time and I couldn’t imagine having to do all this work. I cried and felt sorry for myself for around a week but then just rolled my sleeves up and got on with it.
Everything worked out well in the end!
What do you are the biggest challenges for The Hula?
Selling pre-owned fashion to Asian women who typically don’t like to wear anything that pre-owned. We have to constantly re-educate with panel discussions and sustainability messages to help change mindsets and remind people that if one million women bought their next item of clothing secondhand instead of new, we would save 6 million KG of carbon pollution from entering the atmosphere (1 Million Women).
Any advice for your previous boss?
In hindsight, it would have been extremely beneficial for me to have worked in the E-commerce department J
Are there any brands, business’ or business leaders that you admire?
I love Stella McCartney and her brand for pushing sustainability in a luxurious way whilst also having some fun. Everything she does feels cool even though it is good for the environment.
What would you like to achieve Professionally in 6 months / 1 year / 5 years?
Apart from earning a wage in the next 6 months (!) I would hope to be one of Asia’s biggest fashion resale E-commerce sites one day.
Any advice for talent looking to set up their own hustle?
It is seriously one of the hardest things you will ever do, so you need to be strong minded, extremely resilient and have good people to talk to. Be prepared for the rollercoaster ride - when it’s up you are high and when you are down it can be absolute misery – but if having a business is meant for you, the balance will work itself out.
What is your favorite quote?
“Life shrinks or expands according to one’s courage” – Anaïs Nin
(my fun fave would be “Life isn’t perfect but your outfit can be” – Anon :)
Follow the continuing journey of Sarah and The Hula on their social media sites and website.
And check out these great articles for further reading on Sarah and The Hula.