Timothy's journey

We recently caught up with Timothy to hear about his ANU experience and his work with global fashion CEOs in China.

What do you remember about your experience at ANU?

I was totally focussed on Asia! I joined all the Asian related associations, I enjoyed studying about the history of North East Asia and loved to hide away in Menzies Library pouring over books about China. The most interesting thing I did was a one-year exchange to Beijing and three-month exchange to Taipei to study Mandarin. They were truly life-changing experiences and really helped me build my career in China.

What have you been doing since you graduated?

After graduation I wanted to move to Asia immediately, but no company would hire a graduate and send them directly overseas. Instead, I decided to backpack around China to try to discover emerging youth cultures. Along the way I ended up in Tokyo. I had no Japanese language skills, no work visa and no friends, so the beginning in Japan was a real struggle. I taught English in Japan for a few years, networked like crazy and volunteered to write fashion articles for a free magazine. I made so many connections in the industry that I then joined a head-hunting company specialising in executive positions in fashion and luxury.

After the financial crisis, I moved back to Beijing and my timing was perfect because fashion and luxury companies were all starting to enter China. My head hunting experience helped me to get a position with Savills Property Services where I work now. I work on the retail side advising fashion brands on market entry strategies into China. This means that for the last three years, I have been advising the world’s most iconic fashion and luxury brands! Now I work directly with global CEOs of the top fashion brands which I would never have expected.

What are you hoping to achieve through your work in China?

I hope to make China cool and fashionable. I want to reinvigorate Chinese traditional arts and philosophy and incorporate them into modern fashion and lifestyles. Outside of my job, I have started a blog on the business of fashion and luxury in China. Through this blog I have had the chance to travel the world and speak at major global conferences. I’m also setting up the Australia-China Fashion Alliance project that will act as a platform for business dialogue and cultural exchange for Australian Fashion designers, brands and institutions with their Chinese counterparts. I describe it as “catwalk diplomacy” – a soft-power diplomacy initiative which hopes to facilitate sister schools/designer exchanges between Australia and China and to help Australian brands enter the Chinese market and educate Chinese designers about the Australian Wool Trade.   It has just received seed funding from the Australian Government and the Australia China Council and is a project I am excited to develop.

Based on your experience, what advice would you give to other alumni who want to work in Asia?

If you want to work in Asia it's far easier to get posted there by a company, which means you need to work in Australia for a few years first. If you don’t want to do that then I would suggest moving to a small city in China or Japan for a year and totally devoting yourself to language study. It will be tough and big cities like Tokyo and Shanghai are more attractive, but by being the only foreigner in a small city your cultural understanding and language will improve faster than in the big cities and you will have a major advantage over others later when you do move to the big cities.

The best thing about working in China right now is that there is room to carve out your own niche and specialise in something. I decided to specialise in fashion and now I’m the ‘go-to-guy’ for fashion in China.

What does it mean to you to be a graduate of ANU?

With my career now I am specialising and moving in elite circles – alumni networks are becoming increasingly important and useful. Being an Asian Studies and Economics graduate of ANU instantly opened the doors for me in high-level business, political and China expert circles.

Why have you become involved to give back to ANU?

I want to be able to give back to current students and alumni based on my experience both in working in Asia and preparing for my Year in Asia while I was still a student. I have applied for a seat on the inaugural ANU International Alumni Council, and hope to be able to facilitate a career workshop and open up alumni mentoring opportunities for students who want to work in China or advice on how to establish a career in Asia. I am excited by the opportunity to work with and give back to the University.  

Are you living in Beijing or will soon be travelling through the area?  Make sure you get in contact with the newly established ANU Alumni Beijing group or connect with the Group on LinkedIn.

Want to share your career highlights? Get in contact with ANU to tell your journey alumni@anu.edu.au

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Updated:  May 27, 2019 /Responsible Officer:  Alumni Relations Senior Officer /Page Contact:  Alumni Relations