Meet the region's leading fashion designers
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Cecile Yau Ching-na graduated from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London with a degree in jewellery design, then completed a master's in gold and silversmithing, metalwork and jewellery at the Royal College of Art. After returning to Hong Kong in the late 1990s, Yau worked for brands such as Alfred Dunhill and the Great British Museum, before opening her own shop in 2003. She has won numerous design awards over the years and continues to exhibit her unusual designs throughout Hong Kong.
Have you always wanted to be a designer?
I never thought of becoming a designer, but I've always had the desire to express myself. I enjoy working on things that allow me to be creative.
How did you set up the label?
Establishing my label required capital, good-quality design products and good infrastructure, including management and factory facilities to ensure enough stock for clients. Now, the label is growing naturally. I prefer to go with the flow to maintain a balance in terms of cost and profit and also my own energy.
I don't like to stress over it.
How is the company structured?
I prefer a small team. I employ part-time staff and assign sub-contractors. I take care of most aspects of the business, including product development, production, marketing, promotion and retail and visual merchandising. I don't have a design team.
How many lines are there?
My company's capacity is still small. I like to focus on one line first until it's more established. I'll plan other lines later.
What's your design philosophy?
Paintings are for walls, sculptures belong in a space, and jewellery is for the body. Form follows expression. For me, materials carry meanings. I have to use the right materials to express my ideas. Shapes are a design language, too. I use them to reflect the philosophy.
Who are your customers?
In the beginning, most of my clients were westerners and professionals. Now, I'm also getting customers from Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the rest of Asia. My customers come from different backgrounds, but have certain similarities. They all look for unique design products. They have an uncommon taste and a contemporary attitude towards style.
Do you wear your designs?
Yes. That way I can understand how wearable the pieces are.
What does your current collection look like?
It's called Jewellery Fever and is inspired by viruses. The laser-cut pieces are geometric and look as if they come straight out of a science fiction movie.
What makes your business successful?
The key is to be persistent and be ready to overcome whatever problems may occur.
Where are your designs available?
The British Museum in London sells my William Morris medals commemorating the 100th anniversary of his death. In Hong Kong, my jewellery is available at Cecile Yau Contemporary Jewellery, 1/F, 16 Elgin Street, SoHo, and at Habitus, 3/F, 323 Des Voeux Road, Western Market, Sheung Wan.
Where do you want to expand?
Who's been the biggest influence in your career?
I won a Royal Society of Arts student award when I designed a collection for Issey Miyake. It helped me get into the Royal College of Art, and I was awarded an Overseas Fellowship by the Sir Edward Youde Memorial Fund Council. It changed my life.
What are your plans?
I want to continue establishing my label. I'd also like to study more and take part-time courses.
What's your motto?
Focus on my goals, work it through, be persistent and not be defeated by difficulties.