When Juliana Assuncao first came to the eastern Chinese city of Yiwu in 2011 as a coordinator of a Brazilian trading company, she never expected that she would realize her dream of becoming a fashion designer in a place more than 10,000 miles away from her hometown.
Now Assuncao is the owner of a Yiwu-based clothing brand featuring exotic, stylish clothes and accessories. The brand, created in 2013, is currently trending in both China and Brazil.
“I like to integrate the multicultural elements of Brazil into my designs. It has helped my brand gain popularity with Chinese customers who are increasingly willing to show their individuality,” Assuncao said.
“In eight years, I’ve literally built my brand from the ground up in Yiwu,” she said. “It’s the happiest thing to achieve my fashion design dream in a foreign country.”
Assuncao can still recall her excitement when she first arrived in Yiwu, a city in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province renowned for its marketplace of small commodities.
“I found Yiwu was already a cosmopolitan city at that time. The clothes sold in the city combine fashion elements from different countries, which can serve as inspiration for wannabe designers like me,” she said.
Dubbed “the world’s supermarket,” Yiwu has attracted a growing number of foreigners to do business and settle down. About 15,000 foreign traders from over 100 countries are stationed in Yiwu, and more than 400,000 foreigners travel to the city to do business each year.
Assuncao said besides a multicultural community, China’s huge market and convenient business environment also motivated her to start her own business in Yiwu six years ago.
“I didn’t get to know the true scale of the Chinese market until I visited Yiwu. Thanks to the huge demand, my brand has been selling well in China,” she said.
Over the years, Yiwu has gradually become Assuncao’s “second hometown.” “I love living and working here. Yiwu has become an inseparable part of my life,” she said.
Besides a successful career, Assuncao is now also a member of a local charity organization. On weekends, she and her friends often visit local seniors who live alone and donate money and clothes to poor families.
In her free time, she has also actively participated in fashion conferences across China, hoping to help more young foreign designers gain a foothold in the country’s booming fashion industry.
“Like me, many foreign designers have started from scratch in China. I want to lend a helping hand and tell them that they are not lonely,” she said.
Assuncao said she had traveled extensively across China in search of new inspirations for her designs. “Every trip in China has given me new ideas, and I hope to tell my stories in China through my designs,” she said.