It was almost 15 years ago that New York City native Fiona Kotur landed in Hong Kong. Since then, she helped launch Tory Burch, landed on Vanity Fair’s International Best Dressed List, been awarded for her extensive philanthropic work in Hong Kong, and, yes, started a superstylish, supersuccessful accessories brand, KOTUR. Did I mention she has four boys? Needless to say, she’s a busy lady.
Inspired by art, culture and history, her intricately designed clutches have been tucked under the arms of glamour girls Naomi Watts, Elle Macpherson, Kerry Washington, Tina Fey, Adele, Jennifer Lawrence among them. Her collection has expanded to shoes and totes, as well, and sells at prestigious stores like Net-A-Porter, Bergdorf Goodman, Browns in London and Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong. She also maintains an online shop koturltd.com and a blog called, “World of KOTUR”, which highlights her extremely chic and cool taste in everything from home décor to travel to books.
What’s her secret? Here, she offers up some insight into her very full Hong Kong life.
What is your Hong Kong “arrival” story?
My story was typical in that we moved to Hong Kong with my husband’s job in finance. It was for two years, as an adventure, and then we would be back in New York. That was 14 years ago. I still remember sitting on a rented bed with a baby and toddler, in an empty apartment, trying to figure out where to buy lamp shapes and extension cords. My husband started traveling the minute we landed, and we did not have a helper yet, so I kept things really simple. Our building had a bus to Central and back, which we would ride in circles for hours, as the boys loved it. Everything settled into place, and it has certainly been an adventure!
Do you still have frustrations and moments of stress from living here?
For the most part, life here is easier, safer, and more convenient, than other cities — having lived in New York and London. I cannot say Hong Kong living is stressful, but I do find it helpful to integrate and take part in a community here and get involved.
On the other hand, I also find it helpful to get out now and then, as travel keeps your mind open and stimulated.
What are some of your favorite parts of living here?
I love the variety — that every person’s Hong Kong experience can be different depending on how she wishes to shape her experience.
At what point did you decide to start your business, KOTUR?
My background has been in design and merchandising, having been at Ralph Lauren for many years overseeing men’s and women’s accessories, and then at Gap. My dream was always to have my own label, and I bought my first prototype at 18, a doctor’s bag from Place de Clignancourt, otherwise known as the Paris flea market, which years later became our signature Wallace bag. I have been collecting vintage bags and minaudieres ever since. The impetus to start the brand was when my family moved to Hong Kong — It seemed like the perfect place and time to establish KOTUR.
What have been the biggest challenges about starting a business in Hong Kong?
The challenges exist in the greater scope of creating a brand awareness, and being relevant on an international scope, and relevant in the fashion world. Being a part of the American fashion community through CFDA membership, and hosting seasonal press and market presentations in New York and Paris help connect the label on an international level.
Is there anything about being here that made things easier or run more smoothly?
Running KOTUR from Hong Kong has had distinct advantages as well as challenges. For me, I love design and product development, so being close to the manufacturing and materials sources enabled me to be creative and try innovative techniques.
What is currently (or all time) your favorite bag? Shoe?
Honestly, I have been collecting shoes and bags for 25 years, and have a vast collection of vintage and new, as well as many by KOTUR , including samples that were never produced. My favorite pair is of the Gilda sandal as it was the first shoe we produced and one I plan to wear forever. Also surprisingly comfortable at 110mm!
Who has carried your bag that excited you the most?
I am always starstruck to see our bags on the red carpet on beautiful starlets. Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Alba, Scarlett Johansson and Beyonce all carried our bags or wore our shoes recently. It is quite an honor to have actresses and performers choose to carry KOTUR when they are given so much from every designer.
What’s next for your brand?
I foresee a dramatic change in retail and manufacturing within the next ten years, and plan for our business to focus more on an online, content-driven retail platform. We are now looking into new avenues for manufacturing as well, with hopes to one day produce everything to order via 3D printing. I suppose in the future we might be considered as much a tech company as an accessory one.
You are a wife, mother of four boys, live away from your “home country” and started and run a successful business! What a feat! What tips can you offer aspiring Hong Kong Momprenuers?
There is definitely no science to being able to juggle it all — but I do try at least to focus on one thing at a time. When I am at work, I focus on that, when I get home I try and switch off everything from the office. I appreciate a long weekend hike, with the dog and anyone else in the family who will join me!
One tip I have to share, is from when I was first working out of our apartment. My older sons were then toddlers, and were fine if I left the house for an appointment, but did not like it if they saw me working or on the phone in front of them at home, and fought for my attention. So, I got a habit of getting ‘dressed’ for work, kissing everyone goodbye, and marching into the spare bedroom and closing the door. After work, my time was 100% theirs. It actually worked, to clearly define to them work versus home.
What made you deviate from the typical American expat neighborhoods and build a home in Sheung Wan? Do you love it and why?
I love that it’s a neighborhood, with character and history and some grit. I hope it stays that way.