Meet Robert Wun, haute couture’s new breakout star

    Why have the fashion set and wealthy collectors rallied around this Hong Kong-born, London-based couturier?
    Photo: Robert Wun
      Published   in Fashion

    Couturier Robert Wun reflects on his recent Paris success: “It’s always a bit overwhelming, hearing the crowds clap... a surreal feeling that I guess I won’t ever get used to.”

    Following his show, Wun’s brand added 50,000 Instagram followers, pushing the count near the half-million mark and debunking any notion of him being a one-hit wonder. The Hong Kong-born, London-based Andam Prix Spécial winner has emerged as a fresh, innovative new force in haute couture.

    With only two Paris haute couture shows under his belt, he’s perhaps become couture’s most thrilling independent challenger at just 32.

    Detailing at a Robert Wun Spring 2024 Haute Couture show. Images: all Robert Wun
    Detailing at a Robert Wun Spring 2024 Haute Couture show. Images: all Robert Wun

    Now a fixture in East London’s vibrant Dalston district, Wun discovered his fashion calling early. The London College of Fashion alumnus says that living in one of the world’s great multicultural cities continuously inspires. Dalston – home to his atelier and headquarters, and a melting pot of cultures, languages, classes – is grounding whilst working in an elitist and often warped world of couture.

    Storytelling and show stopping designs#

    Why has his clothing touched such a nerve? Wun’s ability to merge architectural precision with fluid playfulness has endeared him to trend-setting celebrities Lady Gaga, Björk, Cardi B and Lizzo and stylists alike, all seeking statement pieces that transcend art and fashion. But his fashion isn’t about shock value.

    “This doesn't come to me as something that is edgy, or controversial, or scary. It's very natural to me; this is something that excites me,” says Wun.

    Perhaps even Dalston contributes to why his offering is so different. It’s where fantastical $30,000 to $150,000 gowns are made-to-order in a studio atelier just a stone’s throw from a Poundland discount store and a fruit and veg market.

    His Spring/Summer 2024 collection – celebrated for its avant-garde silhouettes and surreal details – featured the now viral “Bleeding Love” dress, challenging traditional bridal wear norms with its red crystal “blood splatters.”

    Robert Wun's Bleeding Love wedding gown shown at Paris Couture Week Spring 2024.
    Robert Wun's Bleeding Love wedding gown shown at Paris Couture Week Spring 2024.

    Traditionally a white wedding gown is a canvas to celebrate the pureness of a bride’s virginity – “so frankly, it’s quite dated,” Wun quips. “And spending all those hours and hours embroidering is almost embracing the pain that comes with love. To fall in love is natural, but to accept the pain is not something that is easy.”

    Another standout piece, a crystal-embellished raincoat and umbrella, stunningly mimics raindrops. Then there’s a glass shard ensemble inspired by The Matrix’s character Trinity during a fight scene where she falls off a skyscraper, shattering glass and windows in slow motion around her.

    Exquisite details on Wun's collaborative works with other London-based, Hong Kong creatives. Image: Robert Wun
    Exquisite details on Wun's collaborative works with other London-based, Hong Kong creatives. Image: Robert Wun

    Collaborations with other Hong Kong-Brit designers like milliner Awon Golding and jeweler Anabel Chan (“who both master their craft with real dedication”) have produced mesmerizing surrealist pieces.

    Besides all three creative hailing from Hong Kong, the magic happens when there’s the trust in his vision: Chan’s gemstones making the illusion of raindrops on a jacket, or a Golding-made striking white brimmed hat ‘sliced open’, revealing a brain-like cluster of blood red crystals, a piece inspired by O-Ren Ishii’s death in Kill Bill. Capturing these moments, scenes, in his fashion, “matters a lot.”

    People versus places#

    London will always be home, but Paris is where Wun feels most appreciated as a proper designer, embodying fashion’s institutional power and the serious international business of fashion.

    The industry’s future, Wun believes, lies in a diversity of voices and perspectives, and he advises emerging designers to understand themselves beyond fashion. The days of myopic designer divas sitting in their fashioned ivory towers will soon be over, he predicts.

    “If you only live for fashion, and think you cannot do anything else, then you're halfway to losing, in my opinion,” says Wun. “You need to ask: Who are you as a person? What are your interests? What do you love? How do you feel about the current state of the world? And when you have that figured out, that means that as a person, you are complete, before you become a designer. And then what you have to say as a designer will be more influential, more impactful, and more solid.”

    Couture designer Robert Wun. Image: Robert Wun
    Couture designer Robert Wun. Image: Robert Wun

    Collectors versus consumers#

    Despite having been at his label for a decade, Wun has really shone since shifting his focus to couture in 2020, after eight years of ready-to-wear. The articulation of vision away from the commercial pressures of ready-to-wear has been liberating. Wun has now found his home, enjoying the “irreplaceable true freedom” in couture.

    But who are his clients, those choosing these designs over the more classic gowns that dominate couture? Many, he reveals, are collectors, mostly from the Middle East, China and America, and some from Europe.

    We have a client, I’m not going to name, who is one of the biggest couture collectors in the entire world, so I feel lucky,” Wun says.

    They aren’t coming here for chic cocktail dresses for a party or ball, they can go to other houses for that. Usually, they seek unique pieces not for pure utility but for its vision, narrative and craftsmanship.

    “I feel like when they want to purchase something from us, they really want to have a Robert Wun piece in their beautiful wardrobe, to show their friends and tell the story behind the outfit,” Wun says.

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