Blonde Am­bi­tion

Fash­ion stylist Olivia Croucher Buck­ing­ham’s love af­fair with Hong Kong be­gan with a man she never met, writes Madeleine Ross

Hong Kong Tatler - - Faces -

Olivia croucher Buck­ing­ham teeters on 10-inch Char­lotte Olympia stilts on the cor­ner of Ice House Street and Queen’s Road Cen­tral, han­ker­ing for the pedes­trian light to change so she can cross. It’s 34 de­grees Cel­sius and brow-mop­pingly sul­try as traf­fic surges down Hong Kong Is­land’s key artery. To­day, how­ever, the com­mo­tion in the city’s deal­mak­ing dis­trict is height­ened by the pres­ence of Justin Bieber. The pop idol has just checked in to the Land­mark Man­darin Ori­en­tal op­po­site us, so the ho­tel’s porte cochère is flanked by pa­parazzi and teenage girls.

Such may­hem is the back­drop for our shoot with the ever-stylish Croucher Buck­ing­ham, who has gal­lantly agreed to brave the heat, grid­lock and pubescent squeals so that we can cap­ture her out­doors and in ac­tion. When she’s not sport­ing her black-tie best at the city’s swanki­est soirees, this ebul­lient gal-about-town is rac­ing around Cen­tral in jeans and sneak­ers, col­lect­ing and de­posit­ing cloth­ing sam­ples at the top fash­ion houses.

“When the light changes, walk to­wards me and look at my lens,” or­ders Hong Kong Tatler’s flame-haired celebrity pho­tog­ra­pher, Crazy Rouge, who is crouched on the other side of the road, poised to cap­ture the plat­inum blonde. Croucher Buck­ing­ham and Crazy Rouge are pals out­side work and spend most of to­day’s down­time arm in arm. Fi­nally, the green light flashes and the two have 30 sec­onds to get the per­fect shot.

Thank­fully, Croucher Buck­ing­ham is au fait with all things pho­to­graphic and half a minute is plenty of time to work her best an­gles. Af­ter board­ing at Heath­field School in As­cot, Eng­land, the Hong Kong na­tive stud­ied pho­tog­ra­phy at the Lon­don School of Fine Arts. “Those skills help me in my cur­rent job as a fash­ion stylist be­cause I un­der­stand what a pho­tog­ra­pher wants and I can see dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives,” she says in her en­er­getic, husky Bri­tish ac­cent. Her first solo ex­hi­bi­tion took place at China Tang in Lon­don and fea­tured evoca­tive pho­to­graphs of her home­town. “At that time al­most none of my English friends had ever been here—i wanted to show them my Hong Kong.”

Croucher Buck­ing­ham is a fourth­gen­er­a­tion Hongkonger. Her ma­ter­nal great­grand­fa­ther, Noel Croucher, im­mi­grated to the colony at the turn of the cen­tury and co-founded the Hong Kong stock ex­change. A vi­brant ec­cen­tric from hum­ble begin­nings, Croucher left an in­deli­ble mark on the city’s busi­ness com­mu­nity and forged a legacy as a phi­lan­thropist, leav­ing his vast for­tune in the name of sci­en­tific re­search. In 1979, a year be­fore his death, he es­tab­lished the Croucher Foun­da­tion, which strives to im­prove the stan­dard of sci­en­tific and med­i­cal re­search in Hong Kong by pro­vid­ing schol­ar­ships and fel­low­ships to promis­ing minds. “My great­grand­fa­ther was in­stru­men­tal in both my and my mother’s love af­fair with Hong Kong,” says Croucher Buck­ing­ham. “I sadly never had the hon­our of meet­ing him. But his spirit most cer­tainly re­mains in this city and no words can de­scribe how im­mensely proud I am to be his great-grand­daugh­ter.”

Af­ter dab­bling in public re­la­tions, events and pho­tog­ra­phy in Lon­don, Croucher Buck­ing­ham re­turned to Hong Kong and be­gan a ca­reer in fash­ion. It all started at Hong Kong Tatler, where she as­sisted our style editor at the time, Arne Eg­gers. “That opened my eyes to the world of fash­ion,” she says. “Noth­ing had grabbed me un­til then, but I found my feet and all of a sud­den the puz­zle was put to­gether. I could work with pho­tog­ra­phers, hav­ing stud­ied as a pho­tog­ra­pher, but in­stead of be­ing be­hind the lens, I gath­ered the sam­ples, made the looks and ad­vised on trends.” Now her fo­cus is per­sonal styling for pri­vate clients, which in­cludes putting to­gether out­fits for time-de­prived Hongkongers in high so­ci­ety—whose iden­ti­ties she prefers to keep con­fi­den­tial.

Far from anony­mous her­self, Croucher Buck­ing­ham is at home in the spotlight. Her cir­cle of friends is pep­pered with home-grown and in­ter­na­tional It girls, in­clud­ing Vic­to­ria Tang, Tina Le­ung, Feip­ing Chang, An­to­nia Li and the su­per­star Delev­ingne sis­ters.

“The Delev­ingnes are close fam­ily friends of ours. Chloe, Poppy and I were all at pri­mary school to­gether at Gar­den House,” she says non­cha­lantly. “I’m a few years older, but age be­came less of a fac­tor as we grew up and soon we were part of a lit­tle Lon­don gang.”

Croucher Buck­ing­ham was one of Poppy’s brides­maids at her wed­ding in Morocco last year; she wore a white lace frock by one of her favourite Bri­tish de­sign­ers, Alessan­dra Rich. Another cur­rent favourite is Aus­tralian brand Ellery, which, like Croucher Buck­ing­ham her­self, “loves a monochrome pal­ette. They just make sim­ple more in­ter­est­ing, with flared sleeves, deep neck­lines and flouncy de­tails,” she says as she ges­tures ex­cit­edly. She’s also a “huge sup­porter” of Burberry Pror­sum, which she wears for our in­ter­view. “I don’t fol­low trends,” she says. “I take a part of a trend and make it work for me, whether it’s a belt, a scarf, a shoe—but I al­most never do a headto-toe look.”

Croucher Buck­ing­ham is part of a gen­er­a­tion of glam­orous young Hongkongers who are build­ing pow­er­ful per­sonal brands through so­cial media. Like Feip­ing Chang, Ali­son Chan and Elly Lam, whose lav­ish lifestyles have earned them thou­sands of In­sta­gram fol­low­ers, she’s an avid poster of self­ies. Although she em­braces so­cial media, she’s also un­easy about its longterm ef­fects. “So­cial media is tak­ing over the fash­ion in­dus­try. So much advertising comes in the form of In­sta­gram now,” she says. “I think it’s fine if a brand gives you an out­fit with the stip­u­la­tion that you have to In­sta­gram it in re­turn, but I do think it’s scary that the plat­form has be­come so pow­er­ful in a pro­mo­tional sense. It’s def­i­nitely interfering—i just don’t know yet if it’s good or bad. Per­haps it’s both.”

Croucher Buck­ing­ham lives a few blocks away from her mother—and her men­tor. “Mummy has al­ways been in­ter­ested in fash­ion. When she was liv­ing here in the ’80s, her wardrobe was full of brands like

Emanuel Un­garo and Yves Saint Lau­rent. Thank good­ness she had a girl and I could in­herit all these fab­u­lous vintage pieces!” The bond be­tween the two has al­ways been strong be­cause Olivia is an only child. “The first year of board­ing school was fright­ful,” she throws off, dis­arm­ingly, in her dis­tinctly Bri­tish way. “The idea of let­ting Mummy go at 11 years old was… Oh my gosh, shock, hor­ror!”

Now, Croucher Buck­ing­ham has plans to bid her mother farewell once again. She wants to spend more time in Lon­don, so that she’s on the ground for Fash­ion Week there and close to those in Paris and Mi­lan. And what about love? Will she have to leave be­hind a dash­ing beau? “Well, love is cer­tainly not hap­pen­ing for me here!” She cries com­i­cally, the pitch of her res­o­nant, raspy voice soar­ing to a chirp. “I think there is more in­ter­est for me in Lon­don but”—she pauses coyly—“i can’t con­firm any­thing on that front.”

Croucher Buck­ing­ham has to run—she has an ap­point­ment with Calvin Klein to sort out her out­fit for the Vip-only Justin Bieber pri­vate con­cert in the evening. Be­fore she does, I ask her if she lives by any par­tic­u­lar motto. “Take each day as it comes,” she says coolly. “Any­thing could hap­pen.”


white out Croucher Buck­ing­ham (far left) as a brides­maid at Poppy Delev­ingne’s wed­ding

Noel Croucher left his vast for­tune to med­i­cal re­search through the Croucher Foun­da­tion

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