Only time will tell

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 November, 2011, 12:00am


Chances are, in the next few months, you will run into veteran actor Michael Wong at fashion parties rather than film premieres.

The actor has incorporated his on-screen tough guy image into some sought-after men's accessories. In September, he gave celebrity friends a preview of a capsule collection with British luxury watchmaker Bremont.

The first style, the MW Heli-Chrono, goes on sale next week. It's a limited edition of 50 - and every owner will get a ride in a helicopter with professional pilot Wong.

Wong says he's already working on other models with Bremont that are planned for release next year.

But the watch collection is just one of a few collaborative projects he's working on with his MW label. Next in line is something for Italian leather accessory brand Giorgio Fedon. There's also luggage brand Rimowa and, maybe, a carmaker.

'I don't come from a design background but I do have a creative background,' he says. 'I'd like to explore the technical side of designing and to be more involved.'

Critics say that celebrities who endorse such products often have little to do with the creative side of the operation. But Wong says he is involved with the design process.

'I don't want to just slap my name on products,' he says. 'I know I can't change the basic design structure but I want to put as much of my passion into the collaboration as I can. I have input, although they still keep their brand integrity.'

Wong was certainly no stranger to the world of fine watches before he joined forces with Bremont. 'I've enjoyed a lot of watch brands throughout the years. I've acquired a real appreciation for their luxury, functionality and quality,' he says.

Today he's carrying with him the prototype of a men's messenger bag he has been developing with Italian leather accessories brand Giorgio Fedon. 'I'm acutely aware of details, subtle things like the size of inner pockets and whether they can hold the new gadgets, iPhone, cards and other accessories,' he says.

Wong says he's been planning to open his own line for years, and the Bremont project got him started. 'It's a big thing in Hollywood. But not many Asian celebrities have made much of an effort to do something like this,' he says.

The actor's star power hasn't hurt when it comes to publicising the products. There was a star-studded line-up at the Bremont launch party that included models Lisa Selesner and Kathy Chow and actress Anita Yuen Wing-yi. They are all close friends of Wong and his wife Janet Ma, who is also a model.

'It wasn't too hard for me to approach brands, as those connections were already there,' says Wong. 'I've endorsed enough products. So it wasn't a stretch to do something myself. Once the Bremont project was up and running, I wanted to explore some possibilities with other brands.'

Born in New York, Wong left for Hong Kong after high school to try his luck at acting. He has since appeared in more than 50 films and is best known for playing buff American-Chinese cops in action flicks and slapstick comedies.

Although he is enthusiastic about the designer goods ventures, Wong says he still enjoys making films.

'I'm actually enjoying it more now. I'm trying characters that I've never played before,' he says.

Wong recently co-starred with mainland actress and filmmaker Xu Jinglei in her latest romantic comedy Confidential, which is due for release next month.

He also played a self-absorbed opera singer in Roy Chow Hin-yeung's thriller Nightfall, which co-stars Nick Cheung Ka-fai, Janice Man and Simon Yam Tat-wah.

'You've never seen me singing in a film but it's obviously a reference to a part of my career,' says Wong. He heads a big band and plays regularly at private functions in Hong Kong and overseas.

A desire to leave a legacy for his family also played a part in his decision to start the MW line, says Wong.

'The ultimate goal for me as a parent is to pass something on,' he says. Wong is the father of two teenage daughters, Kayla and Irisa, and a 12-year-old son, Kadin.

Kayla, the eldest, studies at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in California.

Wong says financing the projects is not as easy as people think. 'Right now, I'm building the brand and working with many luxury labels to facilitate opportunities for both sides,' he explains.

'It's different when you get celebrity endorsement fees. It's not like you could expect people to just give you a whole sum of money but you have to give all you have and to take the opportunity without looking for some payoff. We both want to work.'

He says he puts most of his earnings from the projects into design and promotion.

'I'm not really focused on how much I can get out of it in terms of numbers. I'm more interested in building the brand image. You got to go down before you go up.'