Kei Hui

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Kei Hui is a bit of an oddity in Hong Kong’s fashion design scene. He went into the business without any formal training and no Central Saint Martins pedigree like so many others, yet he’s become one of the most respected names in the fashion scene among fashionistas, celebs and the Hongkongers who wear his pieces.

Hui developed an interest in design because of – and here comes the odd part – the money. When so many independent local designers struggle to make ends meet, he was never discouraged. In fact, he felt, from the off, that he knew enough about how business works so that he could make a packet. And he’s proved it.

Soon after deciding to make a life out of fashion, Hui took up design classes at HKU while working at a handful of studios, where he learned to sew, cut and form. And after that he became self-taught and went through some trial and error routines before he launched a line under the Créature de Keis banner in 2006.
Time Out Hong Kong sits down with the 29-year-old in his spacious studio in Wong Chuk Hang. He comes across as a practical character but his views are, let’s say, somewhat strong. He tells us about his aspirations and gives us a critique on Hong Kong’s fashion scene. And it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted…

When we speak to other designers, your name comes up a lot. Do you think you’ve been a success?
No. Hong Kong designers don’t have the allure compared to designers from other countries. In the public eye, Hong Kong designers don’t deserve their own brand. If you tell people you’re a designer, they ask which brand you design for. And what you design. You either have to come from a brand or specialise in a product. A design label should have its own signature and be the driving force behind culture. However, Hong Kong fashion trends are set by conglomerates like Lane Crawford, I.T or – on a lower level – Giordano and Bossini. When people buy a piece of clothing they don’t look further into the label to find out who the designer is or the history of the brand. They just want to follow a trend. They are more concerned with price or where they can find the best bargain for what they want to buy. That is the true foundation of Hong Kong’s fashion scene.

So you’re saying people in Hong Kong don’t appreciate design?
Too much is available to Hong Kong people. They can walk into any mall and find the brand they want – but what’s on offer in the big malls are products of commercial conglomerates. They are all repeated ideas.

What continues to inspire you?
I see what fascinates this city. I design for people and not chairs, so I observe what people like. If I see you wearing a lot of light grey, then I consider making some light grey in my products. That’s what I look for.

Do you have a particular muse?
The street lady who wears the plastic bags in Central. She’s among people but she has a great distance from the crowds around her. She was my first muse. I made my first collection for her. She showed me the illusion of form, how she hid her corporeal form by the mounds and mounds of plastic bags. Her medium is a plastic bag and when you see a bunch of plastic bags you think of her. She left an impression, wearing plastic bags and reeking of urine. Ten years later, if you encounter plastic bags and bad smells, you remember her. A lot of people know her when I mention her. She’s an icon. It’s all very philosophical.

What do you think is your design signature and style?
My signature is deconstruction, assembly and reconstruction. I follow these three main ideas. It isn’t a theme but logic. Patchwork in my work is like a love song to a Cantopop star. It could include and encompass everything and anything.

What are your thoughts on Hong Kong’s style?
It’s pretty chaotic. It’s like a group of people with bad taste formed a group to define Hong Kong. I consider that I have pretty bad taste too. [Laughs]

What are your goals?
My goal is to leave Hong Kong. Whether it’s the Mainland or Paris. Hong Kong is just about rejection and bullshit. If I have any kind of talent – which I’m not sure I do – but if I do, why should I stay here? There’s only so much rejection a person can take.

It seems like you don’t have a lot of hopes for Hong Kong?
I never did. I always felt Hong Kong was very ordinary. What you see is what you get. Hong Kong can nurture businesspeople but not designers. Interview by Arthur Tam 

Créature de Keis
www.facebook.com/creaturedekeis

 

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