Italy is a global design powerhouse. Italians, it seems, are born with the imagination, style and cultural heritage to create beautiful, functional products that set international trends.
So what do you get when you mix two Italians and two Chinese? You get ‘Do It – Ideas into Things’. A big, small company that is innovating in the design and manufacturing space.
The newsDesk met with Co-founder Elena Raho to find out about this fast-growing fashion and lifestyle start up, and discover how co-working at theDesk Causeway Bay brings value to the business.
Doing it right
Founded in 2017, Do It – Ideas into Things is a one-stop hub for today’s design, development and sourcing needs.
The design and production company has international credentials with an Italian twist.From fashion, lifestyle products and sports goods, to electronics accessories and pure leather goods. The blend of skills within the team gives clients access to a team that learned their trade working with companies like Tucano, Armani and Adidas.
“We’ve been together on and off for the past 12 years. At some point, we thought we should exploit this extensive, common background.”
The foundation for success
Elena Raho started the business with another Italian and two Chinese. “When we started I was still working at Armani,” says co-founder Raho. “We took time to decide how to create something unique; a range of professional services that address the needs of today’s businesses.”
“We were quite clear about what we wanted to do. Our priority has been more about the way we wanted to do it.”
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A big, small business
With broad and deep experience in fashion and lifestyle product design and production, the founders wanted to make better use of their connections and networks.
“Because of our Italian and Chinese background, we knew we didn’t want to be in only one location. Right now, we have three offices, which is quite unusual for a new company.”
With their main office at theDesk One Hysan Avenue, another across the boundary in Songshan and a creative base in Milan, the company can stay close to its Italian origins while ensuring quality service and production are based in the region.
A liquid approach to business
“We decided that the nature of our company should be like liquid. We had to offer our services in a new, fluid way. We had to imagine a new vision for design and sourcing services.”
“We offer design, development and sourcing solutions for multiple categories. But at heart, we are all about lifestyle creations.We’re a team with multi-faceted industry experience. “
“Our company is like liquid. We change shape according to the needs of our clients. Wherever we can offer a different edge, we go. Especially when it’s linked to our Italian heritage.”
“We don’t want our staff to be restricted only to one small area of business. We want our people to stay open and network outside the business. This is what we mean by liquid.”
“Some companies have a flexible structure. Many have industry experience. But none that we know of have our liquid culture. The Italian connection is a key part of who we are.”
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A prestigious background
Elena has worked in the industry for 15 years. “The company that I feel most attached to is Tuscano, from Italy, a leader in computer accessories and travel goods. I worked with them for five years. You can say that was my imprinting phase.”
Thanks to that experience Elena was hired by German giant Adidas. “They needed someone strong in product development and with Asian connections.”
“We know what our clients want and expect regarding quality. And I mean quality both in production and also taste, which is, of course, essential for an Italian company.”
Working and learning with the best
“At Adidas, no one can claim full creative ownership of a product. They have a process driven approach. I was the connection between the design team, the factory and marketing team.
“My work was to get everyone to agree on the product and then get it done at the right price. You had to understand both design and marketing. And you had to be able to communicate with the factory. That was the most challenging thing.”
“I learned everything the hard way, from real industry experience. And I’m still learning. My commitment is never to stop learning.”
“In my role, you had to prevent mistakes. So, I became good at communicating with businesses in China, India, Korea, Bangladesh and many other countries. I had to coordinate international teams.”
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Leaving a perfect company
“I loved working at Adidas,” Raho says, “but I learned how I didn’t want to run my own company. The processes in such large companies are almost mathematically precise. They try not to leave room for human mistakes.”
“It makes sense, but as a creative, it doesn’t feel good. You want responsibility for things. It’s strange to say, but you want to be blamed when things don’t go as planned. And you want to get the credit for things that go right.”
“In a way, this was what led me to leave such a perfect company. They work so efficiently and precisely. It’s like a machine.”
After Adidas, Elena moved to Italian powerhouse Armani. “It was a chance to learn first hand about the high fashion industry.”
“Everything I’ve learned about how a company should work I learned at Adidas in Germany. At Armani, I learned about survival and how to be strong.”
In Elena’s experience, high-fashion companies are the hardest to work with but where you can learn the most. “I learned how to push hard to get my ideas accepted. It requires an aggressive approach,” she reflects.
“The fashion world is a bit violent; a bit dangerous. It sounds strange, but this is something you must recognise before starting your own business in this industry.”
“If you only work at highly structured companies, where it’s all about being politically correct and fair play, you won’t know anything about the real world,” she says.
“At Armani, there was more room for error. But if you make a mistake, you’ll be blamed forever! So you learn to be careful.”
Doing it in Hong Kong
In a short time, Do It has built an impressive international client base. “We work with small and medium brands. Having an account with us is like having your design studio and production house.”
“It’s essential for us to build higher-level relationships; not only with factories but also with the labels. Our reputation as a leading Italian design consultancy is an important part of who we are as a company.”
“It’s hard to work with large, established brands. We’ve found the best way is to offer our services directly to manufacturers,” Elena says.
“We work with factories with ‘muscles’. We help them improve their showcase collections. This enables them to attract big brands by showing the diversity of their products and the quality of execution.”
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The essence of Italian design
How does Elena define the spirit of Italian design? “We stand for simplicity with function,” Elena replies, “but with something extra.”
“I’m a big fan of Japanese design. But as an Italian, it can be so minimalist that it becomes less functional. I say this with love, but there can be a lack of content and meaning. It can be too zen.”
“Compare that with, for example, UK and French designers. They are design leaders, but to the Italian mind, it can be a little over the top and fussy.”
“As Italians, we put a little spice into our products,” says Raho. “But we resist indulging in heavy decoration or unnecessary details.”
“Italian taste stands for balance – it’s not too much, not too little. It’s simplicity and function combined. It’s letting each element stand out.”
Scenarios for success
“We love supporting new brands, but we also like working with older, established brands who are maybe struggling and looking to refresh and revamp. That’s our speciality.”
“The industry is going through major changes. A lot of brands – big and small – are struggling. This is where we see the space for our services.”
“Companies often approach us without complete plans. They are confused, and they are looking for help.”
“We work closely with clients to define how our consultancy is structured. Sometimes we have to do double the work because they the company doesn’t know how to proceed. But that’s part of our intelligence and our skill. And it’s why so many people choose us.”
Working at theDesk
Do It moved to theDesk One Hysan Avenue in December 2017. “theDesk is like a blank canvas. You bring your identity and personality to the space,” says Raho.
“And for a design company, the vibe in Causeway Bay is amazing. We’re well connected to the local neighbourhood. Every brand is on our doorstep.”
“We love the openness of the theDesk’s professional community and the personal connection with the team and other members. I’m so impressed by the personal commitment of the staff. It’s genuine.”
“theDesk is about people. The sense of community of so strong. It just works for the team and me. I’ve not experienced such a great feeling between people. I’ve shared workspaces before but never such a lively and well-managed environment.”
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