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  • Rachel Barac

Sarah Armstrong

Founder of Pinyin Press

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I grew up in rural Scotland and was brought up in a family run business which was a lifestyle rather than a 9-5. My parents encouraged me to follow a path which I’m passionate about which was initially design however, pursuing entrepreneurship was a natural progression thereafter.

I graduated from Textile Design at Central Saint Martins and took the exciting opportunity to move to Shanghai to work for a Chinese luxury brand. I’ve since had experience designing for children's wear, womenswear, fashion accessories, footwear and interiors for both domestic and international brands.

How did you make the move from Jewellery Designer with a luxury Chinese brand, to creating Pinyin Press?

As I worked for several emerging brands with small teams, I gained experience in many different aspects of business from factory production to pricing and marketing. After working for some high end brands in China I also wanted to create products which were at an accessible price point and available to all. I created Pinyin Press to tell my story of life here and to help to connect others to the culture.

What were some of the challenges you faced when starting your own business?

One of the challenges was self-belief and whether the concept would/could be a viable business. I worked relentlessly to build the business. I took every opportunity possible and worked 20 hour days on many occasions. I’m especially grateful to my early, loyal customers and retail partners who believed in my concept from the beginning, as well as my family and friends who were incredibly supportive. I’m still looking for a work life balance however I enjoy working hard and building my business. Within the day to day, sourcing high quality and reliable suppliers for products takes time and patience and is something I continually strive for.

With the growth and success of Pinyin Press since it's inception in 2014, how hands-on do you remain with the business?

I remain involved in every aspect of the business and have a varied daily timetable be it design, visiting factories, quality checking products and packing orders as well visiting retail partners or meeting customers at markets. I have a very small team and if someone’s unwell or can’t come in to work, I fill in the gaps 24/7.

Can you describe your artistic style?

Contemporary, fun and for everyone. I aim to design for all ages and I often consider whether a product is gender neutral while I’m in the design process and this is reflected in some of the materials and colours. I’ve long held an appreciation for Asian design aesthetics and the sophistication of many Asian crafts. I feel that design should be interesting and a way to express one’s personality and tell a story.

Your designs are inspired by everyday life in China. What has been one of the weirdest things you've taken inspiration from?

I don’t consider any of my design inspirations weird. For an interesting insight, I find the wet market fascinating hence the Chicken Feet design and catching up with my Ayi gives another perspective on life in China.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business in China?

Prepare a business plan and dream big. On a practical level, it’s important to have a business plan to be financially responsible and help to direct your path. I feel grateful to be living in China where I find people to be collaborative, supportive and open to great opportunities for business. It’s a place where anything feels possible.

If you would like to find out more about Pinyin Press you can find them at:

Instagram: pinyinpress

WeChat: PinyinPress


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