Robert Wun on Designing for Luxury Markets in China, Hong Kong, and Beyond

Hong Kong-born Robert Wun is the creative director and founder of the fashion label Robert Wun. His designs are the epitome of exaggeration, being both spectacularly bold and abstract. And his technical skills, architectural shapes, and his passion for nature as a continuous source of creativity have brought comparisons to Alexander McQueen and Josep Font.

A graduate from the London College of Fashion, Wun’s career has grown quickly and jumped between the runway to celebrities to movies, having dressed the likes of Lady Gaga, Cardi B., and Celine Dion, and designing Elizabeth Banks’ costume for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2.

Despite his meteoric rise, Wun remains humble, insisting that luck has played an important role in his success. He likes to point out that he’s never lost the “emerging designer mindset,”which has pushed him to remain creative and inventive.

Jing Daily chatted with Wun about his upcoming projects, luxury buyers, the domestic luxury market in Hong Kong, and much more.

How do you see the domestic luxury market in Hong Kong?

“I feel that every discussion of the luxury market should take in the socio-economic changes in society. Evidently, in times of economic growth and stability, luxury consumers have the resources necessary for luxury investments. Hong Kong represents an intriguing case, having not only its own set of homegrown luxury consumers, but also another powerful segment typical for the region — tourists. As taxes are lower in Hong Kong than in mainland China, there’s an influx of Chinese luxury buyers and this presents a great opportunity for designers who showcase their work in Hong Kong.”

You were born in Hong Kong but are London-based. What Hong Kong elements do you use in your designs?

I’m not a designer you can put in a box. I won’t create collections that are exclusively inspired by my heritage or ethnic identity as some other designers do. And it frustrates me to see that some of those collections are not promoting a deep understanding of our culture but stereotypes and misconceptions. For my SS19 collection, I drew inspiration from Hua Mulan and the meaning of her Chinese name. She was a legendary warrior and a symbol of feminism in China. This was the first time I built a full collection based on my heritage, and it was very important to me to have the facts right, so a lot of research and preparation went into it. I became obsessed with the idea of creating something that is both meaningful and educational.”

Robert Run

Robert Wun launched his eponymous fashion label Robert Wan in 2014. Photo: Zhong Lin

How do you see the Chinese luxury buyer versus the Hong Kongers? Are there any distinctive features typical to Hong Kongers?

“For me, luxury buyers from China are more experimental and open to new looks. They are not afraid to take risks, and evidently, they enjoy expressing their personality through clothes. Additionally, Chinese consumers are more supportive towards upcoming brands and emerging designers, while generally speaking, luxury buyers from Hong Kong are more traditional and conservative.”

Your designs convey a sense of rebellion. Given the relative homogeneity of the fashion world, aren’t you taking a risk? Is the luxury world ready to re-embrace the rebels and mischiefs?

“If you will put your own name on a garment, you should be proud of that piece of clothing. And that design has to tell a genuine story, conveying who you are and what you stand for. Trends come and go, but if a designer wants to stay relevant, he needs to inspire the consumer and attract him into his world. You can do that only if you have a clear vision for your brand. To answer your question, perhaps I’m a rebel or perhaps not, that’s up to the customer to decide, but you’ll always know that I’m always being myself, remaining honest in my designs.”

 What’s your thoughts with expanding globally? And do you intend to open flagship stores in China and Hong Kong?

“I’m always aiming to expand, but for the time being, I want to grow organically, considering every step instead of growing too fast. I believe that every successful business needs a strong foundation and powerful roots, and this is especially true in the current climate of the retail world. In the digital age, upcoming brands appear and disappear overnight, and I don’t want to be one of those. I’m aiming for longevity and building a strong connection with existing customers. The flagship store is in plans but that’s a discussion we can have again in 5 years.”

Is the Hong Kong market ready for domestic fashion startups?

“Not yet. Hong Kong consumers are still deeply influenced by Western brands and advertising campaigns. The dependency on Western trends is far stronger in Hong Kong than in mainland China, where younger consumers are pioneering local trends and domestic designers. In mainland China, you already have some fantastic domestic designers who achieved great success and are seen as reputable and valuable as their Western counterparts.”

What’s next for Robert Wun?

We are focusing on the expansion of our accessories division. Besides that, our ready-to-wear line remains at the core of our business, and I can already mention that our next hand bags and jewellery collection will feature some very exciting elements. Our aim is to translate the brand’s aesthetic into ready-to-wear pieces. For this year, I have aligned some incredible creative collaborations but more information on that is to be released soon.”

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