Architectural & Design

July 10, 2013

Behind Fashionary: The Lucky Guy



Written by CARMEN CHAN

When I started my venture in jewelry, things came very random and a lot of kind people and good things came along naturally, helping me to establish my brand and now this editorial. Some consider as luck while some consider as talent. Meeting with Penter Yip, founder of Fashionary, the sketchbook brand specialized for fashion designers and now well-known worldwide with stockists including Colette in Paris, MoMa in New York, Shop des Createurs and Page One in Hong Kong etc, gives me a different perspective on luck itself.

The other day, I met Penter at a cozy local café in Kowloon Bay. Instead of meeting in Central or Sheung Wan which is more like the “hip” place to meet in Hong Kong (with over-priced coffee and everything), we met in this under-the-radar neighborhood which is also closer to Penter’s office. While I was unsure about what to expect from the mysterious guy behind the label, Penter is surprisingly down-to-earth, genuine, and friendly with a great sense of humor.

We started our conversation with the most basic question – “How does it start?” By that, it has to be traced back to Penter’s university life. Studying in the fashion design school in Hong Kong, Penter was not a typical fashion student though. “I am not a fashion guy. I am more like a graphic guy. My classmates were so into the fashion sketches and sewing but I was always the guy who designed the graphics for presentation and brochures.“ This underlines the wow-the-world path of establishing Fashionary sketchbook to bring efficiency to designers. Penter’s humble and friendly character to other fellow fashion designers opens another door for him in this competitive industry. With a Bachelor degree in Fashion Design, Penter did not become a fashion designer but a partner and team player alongside with other designers. “I don’t want to compete with other fashion designers. I want to work with them. I want to help them.” Sooner in later years, Penter did not even expect that it was this thought that changes his life.

Fashionary Sketchbook, Carmen Chan Style Lab

Fashionary Sketchbook

“I had the idea of Fashionary as a sketchbook for designers since my graduation. But then it took me some time to really take it to action.” Although Fashionary is overwhelmingly popular and loved by the world’s most established stores now, it wasn’t appreciated or approved by many in the beginning. “I remember I called and shared the idea with fashion designers, bloggers and other people in industry. Almost all of them didn’t like it. They thought the designers wouldn’t like a sketchbook with dotted bodyline watermark that would limit their creativity. They just thought it wouldn’t work.” Despite the discouraging feedbacks, Penter had faith on the product and insisted of launching it with 500 copies in 2009.

It was a big success. Penter’s sensitivity to designers’ needs and focus on small details won customers’ heart. His ambition and determination paid off when Colette in Paris, one of the most recognized stores in the world became the brand’s first stockist. Since then, Fashionary becomes a name that designers, buyers, and media are craving for. The initial disapproval transformed into an enormous love around the world. In 2010, Fashionary was invited to have a crossover design with Hong Kong-based retail group I.T. to launch four new desigsns of sketchbooks. And in 2013, Fashionary co-designed with Swash London to introduce a luxury print and illustration on the sketchbooks’ covers. Finding his own edge and passion, Penter felt nothing but lucky to get appreciation, trust, and most importantly the freedom to create.

When I asked Penter what his key of success was, he said without second thought, “Focus.” “You need to focus on one thing to make it work. Then you’re so into it as if there is no other way out or no other things you will do. Because of that, you pay extra attention to small details; you put yourself into your customers’ shoes; you develop a product that you genuinely love and believe.” With the business growing worldwide, Penter is learning to be a better leader of the company. “I cannot do everything on my own. I need a good team. And a good leader is not the one who does everything well but delegates responsibility and authority to the right people.”

Growing from a small thought to now an international brand, Penter repeatedly said during our one-hour conversation that he was very lucky. But to me, it is so much more than luck, it is about determination, persistence, courage, and a lot of faith. Luck comes across only when you have these qualities; chance shows up only when you are well prepared. Behind the glamorous fame, it is one’s own effort, dedication and life. Penter may not even plan this himself, but I believe his humbleness in his core nurtures the thought of helping other designers; his passion in his dream touches people’s heart; and finally his action from his minds speaks out to the world. And To me, maybe luck does count; or maybe – more possibly – you are the luck yourself, bringing everything together and making it happen.

Fashionary Sketchbook, Carmen Chan Style Lab

Penter drawing on his Fashionary Sketchbook

More Q&A with Penter Yip, founder of Fashionary

1. What is your most memorable moment in Fashionary?

When design teams and large design companies order us for their designers.

2. What is the coming direction of Fashionary?

We will develop more tools for fashion designers.

3. As a Hong Kong artist, designer, and entrepreneur, how do you see the art and design industry in Hong Kong?

People need patience when it come to art and design industry. Don’t give up your vision.

4. What are the three things you can’t live without?

Internet, internet and internet.

5. What are your favorite brands/ designers? And why?

Anything linked with skull, like Alexander McQueen, Aitor Throup, H.R Giger… etc

See more Q&A with Penter at Shop des Createurs editorial here

Fashionary sketchbooks

Fashionary sketchbooks

I post my column here and www.shopdescreateurs.wordpress.comevery Wednesday. If you like what you see, make sure you give a LIKE at my page at

Many love – CARMENX

About the Author

Carmen Chan
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Carmen Chan is a designer, writer, dreamer, and lover of beautiful things. Carmen always believes that a modern woman needs to "be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.". She is currently the founder and jewelry designer of her own brand, Carmen Chan Jewelry, as well as branding & PR consultant based in Hong Kong.


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