Dux of Luxe

The world of lux­ury is at a piv­otal point, says mar­ket­ing maven Peter Cheung. Madeleine Ross meets the style con­nois­seur as he launches his own strate­gic con­sul­tancy

Hong Kong Tatler - - Close-Up -

y mum was al­ways very strict about how her chil­dren were dressed,” says Peter Cheung, who grew up flanked by fe­males in a house­hold where good style was sa­cred. As the youngest child and only boy in his par­ents’ brood of six, his sar­to­rial tri­umphs—and mishaps—were closely scru­ti­nised. “We weren’t al­lowed to wear denim or sneak­ers out­side sport. I bought my first pair of jeans when I was 16, ba­si­cally to rebel, and I re­mem­ber my mother look­ing at them and say­ing, ‘I can’t be­lieve you’re wear­ing those; what are you, a farmer?’”

Cheung, who has ded­i­cated his ca­reer to the busi­ness of lux­ury, most re­cently as re­gional mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for Van Cleef & Ar­pels, cred­its his im­pec­ca­bly turned out Shang­hainese mother for his ap­pre­ci­a­tion of life’s finer things.

As we sip tea in the Con­rad Hong Kong, Cheung tells tales of trips to the jew­eller with the metic­u­lously groomed ma­tri­arch. “It was the 1970s and my mum and her friends would visit their jew­ellers al­most daily. She would pick me up from school, we’d have af­ter­noon tea and then go to the jew­ellery store. She’d ask one of the sales as­sis­tants to take me to the toy shop and buy me a Match­box car, and I re­mem­ber hav­ing a col­lec­tion of lit­er­ally hun­dreds of Match­box cars.”

With such a back­ground it’s no sur­prise Cheung de­vel­oped an in­ter­est in pre­cious stones and ob­jets d’art—and within a few years fin­ery had be­come his rai­son d’être. Roles at Ver­sace, Dior, Sotheby’s and, most re­cently, Van Cleef & Ar­pels have earned him a flaw­less rep­u­ta­tion in the worlds of fash­ion and high jew­ellery.

This month marks the be­gin­ning of a new chap­ter in his ca­reer as he launches his own con­sul­tancy, Peter Cheung Asia, to ad­vise lux­ury brands on mar­ket­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and brand strat­egy. Van Cleef & Ar­pels has al­ready en­trusted Cheung with its busi­ness, and he is in talks with nu­mer­ous other brands, in­clud­ing a promis­ing Parisian de­signer and a Euro­pean pro­ducer of hand­made shoes, both of which he can­not yet name.

In spite of his love for beau­ti­ful things, Cheung’s path wasn’t al­ways clear. When he was seven, his fam­ily left the clam­our of 1970s Hong Kong for Canada. “Our par­ents were con­cerned about Hong Kong’s fu­ture. The loom­ing han­dover was a source of anx­i­ety for ev­ery­one, so my friends and I be­came these sort of as­tro­naut kids who were sent over­seas for school and re­turned for the hol­i­days.”

His fam­ily set­tled in Vic­to­ria, Bri­tish Columbia, where he at­tended school and univer­sity. Classes were ini­tially ter­ri­fy­ing be­cause he spoke no English, but Cheung threw him­self into sport and ex­celled in ten­nis. In many ways the quaint new town felt like home. “Vic­to­ria re­minded me a lot of Hong Kong be­cause it was a Bri­tish colony, and a lot of the time I think the Bri­tish Columbians are more Bri­tish than the Bri­tish.”

He re­turned to Hong Kong in 1996 to join the work­force. As far as the lux­ury world was con­cerned, things were shaky. The lus­tre of the ’70s and ’80s had dimmed, and the pre­han­dover at­mos­phere was tense. “There were so many con­cerns and un­cer­tain­ties about the Ba­sic Law, about what would hap­pen to Hong Kong af­ter China took it back, and, on top of that, Asia was go­ing through its first re­ces­sion.”

By 1998, how­ever, things were look­ing up. The bright young Hongkongers who had been sent abroad were re­turn­ing in droves. Brands, see­ing an op­por­tu­nity to tap the so­phis­ti­cated and in­ter­na­tional tastes of a new gen­er­a­tion, be­gan bol­ster­ing their Asian oper­a­tions.

It was in this con­text that the pub­lish­ers of Hong Kong Tatler ap­proached Cheung to be the mag­a­zine’s so­cial editor. He was pluggedin and pop­u­lar, and a con­tem­po­rary of the glit­terati in this flash new crowd. He took the job, which put him on the radar of lux­ury brands, and when the mar­ket ex­ploded a few years later, he was poached by Sotheby’s.

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