Two weeks ago, I wrote about my fashion and design expedition to Stockholm, courtesy of Volvo. I was greeted by a city with wide open spaces, beautiful greenery, and people who were conscientious and well-mannered. As it was my first time visiting the city, I was unsure what to expect: only a lengthy itinerary and a list of places I had never heard of. Yet what I ultimately found, was a country built on values of moderation, civility, and open-minded friendliness. Here is a brief travel sketch of my time there:
Showcasing at The HUB last August, Vega Wang possesses the kind of sharp clarity that beguiles the age of her young eponymous fashion label. Based in Beijing, this Central Saint Martins graduate has been featured in the very best fashion publications such as Vogue China and Vision Magazine. Her design eye is sharp, and the women she designs for are sharper. Now no longer the new kid on the block, and nowhere near the scale of giant conglomerates, we take to Wang about how her fashion label is navigating the middle years.
Last month, I had the honour of being invited by Volvo Cars to attend Stockholm Fashion Week. Out of both personal and professional curiosity about the city, I gladly accepted the offer. In addition to attending many of the local fashion shows in the city (which I will write about in another blog post), Volvo Cars also hosted a design seminar to address the question, “Is Scandinavian Design the Future of Luxury?”. Participants of this discussion included Jonas Pettersson from award-winning design agency Form Us With Love, Cia Jannson from Elle Sweden, Pär Heyden and Cecilia Stark from Volvo Cars, and Nina Bogsted from Swedish juggernaut label Filippa K. Scandinavian design has always favored a pared-back, minimalist aesthetic. The hair and make-up is fuss-free, with a unisex, monochrome approach. Brands like COS in particular have been able to capitalize on this global minimalism-mania. The aesthetic was particularly popular when Phoebe Philo presented her debut collection for Céline in 2009. Although no longer at its height, minimalism still lingers on to this day. With its roots in Scandinavia, the aesthetic is both timeless and timely.
Six Lee stands as part of the Chinese Menswear Trio, a group of young emerging menswear designers alongside contemporaries including Kay Kwok and Xander Zhou critically acclaimed for their avant-garde and fearless menswear aesthetic. Carving out a new tailoring code in an otherwise traditional (read: Savile Row) category, he is one of the rare Hong Kong-based talents with a strong international outlook. One of his latest projects is a fashion-art exhibition with Hong Kong trade show The HUB entitled “Six with Six: A Retrospective Journey”. The two-day exhibition showcased his past six collections in a collaboration with six respected Hong Kong creative visionaries. I talked with the man himself about his early days at Antwerp, his Paris dream, and the future possibility of doing a womenswear line.
Scandinavian design has consistently held its place as a universal standard of what good design stands for. It’s sleek lines pay tribute to the austerity of Germany’s Bauhaus philosophy, but with a softened approach. From mainstream fashion from H&M, to mid-level alternatives like a round tray table from Hjerten & Hjerten (available at American Express), to luxury pieces from Bang & Olufsen, Scandinavian design spans different price tiers. It also translates fluidly across different industries, including furniture, interiors, fashion, product design and architecture. Originating from the countries of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland, this design philosophy reached its golden age peak from 1951 until the end of the 1960s. During this time, designers such as Arne Jacobson, Hans Wegner, Verner Panton and Bruno Mathersson made their mark on the international design stage. Despite the dip in its influence in the 1970s and 80s following complaints that Nordic design had turned staid and predictable, it has once again risen in popularity. The reason why? The design philosophy holds many of the values that are sought after in today’s times: a return to a simpler life, quiet coolness, and sustainability. The longevity of Scandinavian design illustrates its ability to strike a fine balance in today’s fast-paced word: one where timelessness and timeliness merge together into one.
Mong Kok is notoriously known for being one of Hong Kong’s most crowded and polluted areas of the city. As one of the city’s shopping districts, a variety of malls and markets exist side by side in this tourist-laden district. Yet you wouldn’t know that such urban chaos existed at Shoe Artistry. Walk alongside a narrow alleyway behind a few street stalls and enter into a non-descript building. The workshop is found on the second floor. It’s an industrial haven of sorts, where leather skins in a variety of colors and textures drape along one of the walls, with heavy machinery sits at the back, and a long set of tables and chairs taking up a majority of the space. Founded by Kit Lee and Jeff Cheng, the Shoe Artistry business model is built on two pillars. The first provides a hands-on workshop experience, allowing rookies and amateur shoe-enthusiasts the chance to create their own pair of shoes. The second path is a bespoke shoe-making service. Lee and Cheng have just finished one of their shoe-making workshops, and are slowly tidying up the area. As they slowly put their stock away, we sit down for a few moments to chat about the future of bespoke handmade shoes, their thoughts about industrialization and what it is the company ultimately stands for.
Every visit to a bookstore here in Hong Kong, and especially the business section, irks me for a particular reason. Littered across the shelves are titles that preach the promise of understanding the Chinese consumer with the ultimate goal of making money from them. I’ve even read a few, some which I find to be quite frankly rubbish. Industry jargon and technical words are used to highlight the differences between East and West, in such a way that any understanding derived from them is stilted and formalized- comprehended by cold graphs and figures rather than an approach that is intimate and humanized. It was therefore with pleasant surprise that Universal McCann recently contacted me to help them in their quest to understand the new affluent luxury consumer. Their report, entitled Shared Stores, possesses none of these traits mentioned above. During my correspondence with the research team, I was happy to find a group of people very willing to listen,and represent these new luxury consumers in an intuitive and respectful way. Shared Stories outlines the archetypal psychographic profile across three major growing luxury market segments: China, Russia and the Middle East. Through seven years of quantitative, digital, social research, the report has summarized and identified three different consumer segments and the drivers of their luxury purchases. Today marks the official release of this exciting report. Here are some of its findings about the Chinese consumer, and my thoughts about these claims:
“Fashion is for really fickle people,” says Lam at the outset of our talk. The thin-framed Vogue China veteran sits next to me at a low-key cafe, her outfit by Hong Kong designers Jourden and Compound. And why wouldn’t she know? Lam has been a fixture of the fashion scene, working previously for i-D Magazine in London before moving to Hong Kong for Vogue. The fashion veteran has seen more than her fair share of glamor, working with some of the world’s biggest names like Lana Del Rey, Kate Moss and Steven Klein. We come together to talk about her career journey, which she speaks about with a clear mind, fond memories, and a bright sparkle of laughter.
Art much like other cultural industries sometimes suffers from a reputation of elitism and snobbery. Unlike fashion which is grounded more in commerce, art doesn’t possess the kind of functionality that fashion does. Why put something on your wall when you can wear it? All of this leads some people to assume that art is a superfluous luxury meant for those with too much cash to spend. This is where the Affordable Art Fair has stepped in to dispel such a notion.With the mantra pillars of accessibility, education, and encouragement, the concept of the Affordable Art Fair has been to democratize art collection to a wider span of people. What began as a starting point for Will Ramsay with his first opening in London for the concept has expanded internationally to the Americas, Asia and the rest of Europe.
A few weeks ago I was spending some well-deserve time off traveling in a far-off distant land- Peru to be exact. During my time in the wonderful country I had gone on a road trip with three other close friends to see one of the Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan kingdom built on the summit of a tall mountain. We ventured across the exotic terrain of the country through rocky mountains, desert, fog, snow, valleys, gorges, rivers, plains, and everything else you could think of. To capture the experience in either words or photos would do the experience an injustice. It was for a lack of a better word (or rather no word at all), breathtaking. Whilst heading towards our destination was an experience filled with oohs and ahhs, the car ride back home elicited a very different response. I was sitting at the back, silently pensive and looking out the window.