By Tatler Hong Kong
October 06, 2020
Peter Cheung, Tatler Asia’s regional advisor on engagement, PR and business development, gazes back lovingly at dynamic moments in Hong Kong fashion
During my career in fashion, I have been witness to some incredible moments on Hong Kong’s timeline of style. After the Seventies and Eighties brought prosperity to the city, its reputation as one of Asia’s luxury destinations grew too, leading international retailers to flock here and the rise of world-class homegrown brands. Here are my most fashionable Hong Kong moments of the past 30 years—from pop music to pop-ups.
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When she launched her eponymous store in the Seventies, Joyce Ma (right) single-handedly changed how Hong Kong people dressed by introducing the best of international fashion and designer labels to the city. Her ultimate statement was the opening of the 17,000-square-foot Joyce boutique at The Galleria in 1992, setting a global benchmark for the lifestyle meets- fashion concept store and establishing a regional mecca of style. Only someone as visionary as Ma had the foresight to house the very best of designer fashion, beauty, floristry and the “place to be seen”, Joyce Caf., all under one roof.
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As well as being David Tang’s China Club glory days, the Nineties also saw the famed Hong Kong businessman open his fashion brand Shanghai Tang, first in the Pedder Building in 1994. Tang’s instinct for colourful and whimsical, yet still luxurious, collections both gave Hongkongers a renewed sense of pride in wearing Chinese-made clothes and made the shop a must-visit destination for tourists. The brand’s Imperial Tailoring Atelier brought back the glamour of old Shanghai, with actress Gong Li as its muse.
Sadly the store had to close and relocate in 2011: I still cringe at the thought that it was the (now also closed) US chain Abercrombie & Fitch that took its place.
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In the Mood for Love, the Wong Kar-wai film that put him and Hong Kong cinema on the map, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000. Tony Leung was awarded best actor, a first for any Hong Kong star, but what everyone around the world fell in love with was the art direction by William Chang Suk-ping. The stunning Maggie Cheung embodied retro Sixties style: her hair, make-up and her perfect figure in those precisely tailored cheongsams cemented her as an international fashion icon.
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Cantopop star Leslie Cheung’s final Passion Tour from 2000 to 2001 bent all the rules of gender and sexuality: in a collaboration with Jean-Paul Gaultier, Cheung pushed the boundaries with heaven and hell-inspired couture looks. Flicking his long hair extensions, stomping his rhinestone high heels and playing up his cross-cultural drag attire, Cheung cemented himself as the ultimate idol in fashion and showmanship.
The show was lauded for its concept, styling, staging, props and lighting, the likes of which haven’t been seen since (sorry, G-Dragon).
Living up to her reputation as the “Madonna of Asia”, Anita Mui changed her image hundreds of times throughout her career and her unconventional wardrobe choices never disappointed. While battling cervical cancer, she embarked on her final tour in November 2003 and used fashion to communicate. Mui emerged for the show’s finale in a wedding dress designed by fashion designer and long-time collaborator Eddie Lau Pui-kei to dedicate the show to her fans by “getting married” to the stage. Fans rightly knew it would be her last live performance: Mui passed away the following month.
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In 2008, a bizarre, pod appeared on top of the Star Ferry Car Park in Central. Zaha Hadid was behind the design of the Chanel Mobile Art pavilion, built to house the Karl Lagerfeld-commissioned “sensorial voyage” of 20 artworks inspired by the brand’s quilted 2.55 bag. The pod travelled next to Tokyo and New York, but it was Hong Kong that was first to clap eyes on this major fashion and art statement.
While fighting off Sars in 2003, Hong Kong became a ghost town, not dissimilar to this year’s lockdown. However, Dior met the crisis with a spirit of optimism and became a textbook example for the industry’s revival with the opening of its flagship Tsim Sha Tsui boutique—an event I helped to organise. Falling on the same day the city was declared Sars-free, Dior’s grand opening had more than 2,000 guests clamouring to get in, warranting a second day of celebration. Fingers crossed we see a revival like this in Hong Kong again soon.
The biggest physical brand statement was the enormous Louis Vuitton trunk in Tamar Park to celebrate the brand’s 150th anniversary in 2004. The largest temporary entertainment venue ever built in Hong Kong, the trunk was illuminated using then-state-of-the-art lighting and was visible across the harbour and beyond. Kick-starting the trend for large-scale fashion and luxury events in Asia, the Hong Kong party welcomed more than 3,000 guests for an unforgettable night that was rumoured to have cost HK$40 million: a record budget for an event at that time.
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As the luxury industry was getting back on its feet in the wake of Sars, the introduction of the independent visa for mainland Chinese visitors to Hong Kong brought a new group of consumers to the city, sparking a war between brands vying for their attention. Events became bigger: guest lists would exceed 1,000 at larger parties.
However, instead of gimmicks, noise and size, Giorgio Armani in 2004 hosted a Milanquality show with a very small audience below the HSBC Main Building in Central. The awe-inspiring show coincided with Armani’s first official visit to Hong Kong and set a trend for other designers to make personal appearances in the city.
Whether you love it or hate it, streetwear is here to stay. From the growth of staple brands like A Bathing Ape and Off-White to this season’s insanely expensive Dior Air Jordans (US$2,200), I have marvelled at streetwear’s staying power.
Founded by Edison Chen and Kevin Poon, Clot, Hong Kong’s homegrown streetwear label, has had fans clamouring for its sought-after collaborations with brands like Nike, Visvim and Stüssy since 2003 and now sells globally with shows at New York and Paris fashion weeks. Suddenly, my suit and tie seem very uncool…
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