I’m def­i­nitely some­thing of a cross-breed

Hong Kong Tatler - - Features -

valu­able. When I first got to Eng­land, I didn’t get much re­spect from my peers and I be­lieve that was be­cause Hong Kong had made no cul­tural con­tri­bu­tions to the world stage. Yes, we were rich, but as a city we had noth­ing orig­i­nal to our name.”

Af­ter fin­ish­ing his ar­chi­tec­ture de­gree at Sh­effield Uni­ver­sity, Young moved back to Hong Kong to fill this cul­tural void by cre­at­ing a brand that was rep­re­sen­ta­tive of lo­cal tastes and aes­thetics. G.O.D. was born in 1996 and Young spent the next two decades repack­ag­ing vi­su­als, con­cepts and flavours from Hong Kong her­itage into fur­ni­ture, fash­ion and food. His de­signs are of­ten pur­pose­fully provoca­tive, such as his tongue-in-cheek slo­gan “De­lay No More” and its strik­ing sim­i­lar­ity to a pro­fane Can­tonese ex­pres­sion, and the T-shirts printed with char­ac­ters that re­minded the po­lice of a lo­cal triad gang, which fa­mously got him ar­rested for 24 hours. But many other pieces also hold a strong mes­sage about the fu­ture of the city.

For the past 20 years, Young’s fun­da­men­tal battle has been to turn Hong Kong into a cul­tural and cre­ative hub, not just a fi­nan­cial one. “We’re on our own here and we have to as­sert our­selves against our com­pet­i­tive neigh­bours, oth­er­wise we’ll get lost,” he says. “Ge­o­graph­i­cally, we’re ide­ally placed, English is spo­ken widely and it’s an open so­ci­ety with a free press and a trusted legal sys­tem. This com­bi­na­tion is pretty unique in Asia, and we need to har­ness our ad­van­tages to max­imise Hong Kong’s com­pet­i­tive­ness. With the rise of Asia, the world is yearn­ing for a cul­tural show­case in this part of the world, so we should build state-of-the-art venues for film fes­ti­vals, fash­ion shows, mu­sic ex­trav­a­gan­zas and sport­ing events.”

Young be­lieves the fight to turn the city into a cul­tural hub is a more worth­while one than some of the other is­sues on the po­lit­i­cal agenda. “It com­ple­ments the roles that China has set forth for other main­land cities and cre­ates a vi­sion for Hong Kong that every­body can share,” he says. “I hope it also gives our dis­grun­tled young­sters a sense of di­rec­tion and helps them fo­cus on some­thing they can all be a part of. A lot of the frus­tra­tions ex­pressed dur­ing the re­cent civil un­rest stem from not know­ing where our fu­ture lies.” A few days af­ter our shoot, I meet Young for cof­fee at his stu­dio in the Jockey Club Cre­ative Arts Cen­tre in Shek Kip Mei and, as I wan­der through its many clut­tered rooms, I feel like I’m en­ter­ing both a time warp and a shrine to lo­cal cul­ture. There are or­nate chairs, a wall of clocks, hun­dreds of cups and plates in glass cab­i­nets, china or­na­ments, minia­ture Hong Kong taxis and buses and Cathay Pa­cific planes, and rooms of brightly coloured posters—all of which could have landed on the scrapheap but now in­spire Young and his de­sign team ev­ery day.

“Ev­ery­thing I col­lect has hu­mour and, as Hongkongers, we all need to have a bit more fun to­gether,” he says. “I’m an An­glophile. I love Euro­pean cul­ture, and I ad­mire how the Bri­tish can laugh at their tra­di­tions but still pass them on. Their con­fi­dence in their her­itage has al­lowed Lon­don to be­come an in­ter­na­tional hub while re­main­ing quintessen­tially Bri­tish. A Hong Kong per­son doesn’t have that, be­cause we’re still stuck in the colo­nial mind­set—the for­eign­ers were our masters and thus ev­ery­thing lo­cal is in­fe­rior. I’m try­ing to re­dress that.”

Over the past year, Young’s core mission has re­mained the same, but his fo­cus has shifted from fur­ni­ture to fash­ion. He’s cur­rently work­ing on a col­lec­tion of Hong Kong-in­spired cloth­ing to sell in the six lo­cal G.O.D. stores, and his stu­dio is awash with cheongsam-style capes, neon dresses, slo­gan jumpers, and skirts and trousers made

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