For over 10 years Chen worked on making her name in the local market and by 1994 had built a client list of nearly 25,000 people, many of whom are high society types, or the wives and mistresses of government officials and diplomats. Most of these people are in the 41 to 50 age range so it has been a company strategy over the last 10 years to reach out to a younger generation of upwardly mobile customers, not only here, but in the beckoning China market and farther afield.
This will be achieved, said Shiatzy Chen's PR and marketing manager Amber Chen (陳奕彤), by extending established principles. "We use our own culture and roots to create a new look for the country, which is elegant but not obvious."
Amber Chen likened Shiatzy Chen's brand to that of Japan's Yohji Yamamoto, who has a loyal homegrown market and international appeal, is always at the leading edge of fashion and has recently tapped into the youth market by teaming up with Adidas for the Y-3 collection. If Shiatzy Chen can gain the same leverage as a Taiwanese/Chinese designer that Yamamoto has as the preeminent Japanese designer, the future is assured.
"A brand gives identity and makes us stand out as a designer label," Amber Chen said. "We represent the Taiwan-China market. We have many of the aesthetic elements of Chinese culture and we are the leading edge as far as creating a `new Chinese look.' ... It takes time to build a brand. It's nothing to do with the clothes anymore, it's all about marketing. The product doesn't just speak for itself, our voice needs to be heard."
Last year, Shiatzy Chen had a turnover of NT$750 million. This represents 15 percent growth over the past five years and means the company has enough funds to expand quickly over the next 10 years and achieve significant market penetration, not just in China -- the short-term goal -- but in the mature high-end markets of Paris, Milan, London and Tokyo.
To enable this, a huge new factory has been built in Shanghai and a large proportion of profits is going into research and design. There will also be further recruitment of talent in design, marketing and manufacturing. All the fundamentals for growth are in place.
A source of pride for the company is its innovation of new materials with which to fashion clothes while using traditional Chinese handicraft and tailoring techniques, some of which had practically vanished before being revived by Shiatzy Chen.
Shiatzy Chen's fashion apparel is no longer just "Made in Taiwan." Over the next 25 years she intends to make her name on the world stage. Last year London's Financial Times listed her as one of the top fashion brand names and Vogue said, "There is nothing in any market with her style at the international designer level."
There is no doubt Shiatzy Chen has taste so expect to see, touch and hear a lot more of her brand in the future.