Denim done well in Norway, smart bites in China and staying sweet in New Zealand.
It all started seven years ago with the purchase of a 1939 Singer sewing machine; since then Jens Olav Dankertsen’s fledgling Trondheim-based Livid Jeans brand has transformed into a profitable business.
“Everything we do is traceable and sustainable, from the cotton to the final product,” says the self-taught founder, who sources selvedge denim from premium Japanese mills such as Nihon Menpu and Kuroki.
Dankertsen is fully committed to manufacturing in Europe. Bespoke pairs are made in the Trondheim workshop but larger quantities are produced in Portugal. To date, Livid Jeans are sold by 50 retailers across 11 countries. You’ll have to get in line for a custom pair though: the wait is up to three months. “We’re not competing with Levi’s,” says Dankertsen. “We aim for the best possible and longest-lasting quality at a fair price.”
Manuka honey, which is said to have health benefits, has become the victim of its own success. Prices have tripled over the past five years, leading to a rush of new entrants into the market. But waning international confidence in the authenticity of the products on offer is slowing sales. It’s being felt most keenly in New Zealand, which exported nz$223m (€151m) worth of the golden nectar in 2015.
Regulators are now stepping in. This month the Ministry for Primary Industries will establish a “rigorous, independent and transparent scientific definition of manuka honey”. This, it hopes, will help the industry grow to nz$1.2bn (€800m) by 2028.
As Chinese cities become ever more congested, local governments are urging commuters back onto their bikes. In a country obsessed with status, this is no easy task. But two rival bike-share companies have emerged with a new strategy: pairing new technology with better-designed bicycles to appeal to the younger generation.
Both start-ups, Mobike and Ofo, have ditched traditional docking stations; riders instead use smartphones to unlock bikes and park them anywhere when finished. As the battle heats up, investors are taking sides. Mobike is backed by technology giant Tencent, while Ofo has Didi Chuxing, China’s leading ride-hailing company, and smartphone-maker Xiaomi as backers. Each company raised at least ¥690m (€93m) in late 2016.
Mobike, however, believes it has the edge in terms of its technology. The company, which launched in Shanghai in April and has since expanded to three other cities, has developed GPS-equipped bicycles that users can locate with their phones and unlock by scanning a QR code. “At the core, we’re a tech company solving the last-mile problem,” says Florian Bohnert, who is leading Mobike’s expansion in Singapore.
Ofo, launched by three students in Beijing in 2015, is taking a more grass-roots approach by targeting universities; it’s now on some 200 campuses in 22 cities. There are also talks to expand to Southeast Asia and Europe in 2017.
After an eight-year wait, Kosovo has its own dialling code: +383. Calls were previously routed through Serbia, Slovenia or Monaco so pretending you’re in the principality rather than Pristina will be tough now.
Grace Wang started her career as a waitress at the VVG Bistro (“Very Very Good”) restaurant in 2002 before eventually taking over the business and transforming it into a multifaceted design and lifestyle brand that employs 220 people and can boast an annual revenue of €6m.
The VVG Bistro was the first building block of the brand. How did you go from waitress to CEO?
The food-and-beverage industry intrigued me so I decided to get some hands-on experience. One day a customer asked whether we served finger food; I had no idea but was brave enough to accept the order. This evolved into a catering business that has now served at more than 15,000 events.
How did you grow the brand into a lifestyle concept?
We focus on promoting our craft within Asia’s creative community. We’re ambitious but patient. It wasn’t until 2009 that we started a non-f&b project: the VVG Something book shop. Our team had no prior retail experience; we simply wanted a shop that embodied our vision.
What’s next for VVG?
In November we opened our first retail project outside of Taiwan, in Nanjing. A mixed retail and lifestyle project, VVG Lifestyle Village will open in 2018.