Asian Invasion Project at Joyce, Lee Gardens
Emerging talent Robert Wun takes inspiration from nature's flaws to create his unorthodox designs, writes Kylie Knott
Robert Wun might be a perfectionist, but life's flaws inspire him. At just 21 years old, Wun is riding a wave. He has his own eponymous label, a foot in the door at one of the city's fashion stores, exotic good looks ("my dad is Mongolian and my mum's Tibetan - my family tree's a little complicated") and an innate sense of style even when casually decked out, head to toe, in Uniqlo.
"I don't wear any particular designer … I just want to feel comfortable. But I love jewellery," he says, waving his hands bedecked with chunky silver rings. "These rings are from a little shop in Brick Lane and these are by a friend [London-based jewellery designer] Gina Melosi, who I'm collaborating with on a jewellery line for my couture collection."
Seeing potential in the young designer, Hong Kong retailer Joyce selected Wun's "Burnt" collection as part of its Asian Invasion project. The exhibition and pop-up store at Lee Gardens in Causeway Bay showcase Wun and fellow Chinese designers Patrick Li and Ryan Lo. It ends this month.
The collections of all three could not be more different. Li, a graduate of London's Royal College of Art who has worked under Hussein Chalayan and Viktor & Rolf, follows a minimalist path with his spring-summer 2013 collection boasting strong, clean architectural lines. Lo, on the other hand, breaks all the rules with an in-your-face, candy-coloured collection bursting with tulle, tinsel and ribbons.
Wun is also full of contradictions: he uses artificial fabrics such as neoprene, Lycra, foam and burnt waddings to create designs largely inspired by nature. The result is ruched dresses and peplum skirts, many contrasting black with white, set off with cut-out boxy jackets. Scales and limbs of insects seen under a microscope inspired his chunky platform heels with a horned toe.
"Discovering the symmetrical flaws in nature led me to a deeper attraction to microphotographs of butterflies and moths. Insects we perceive to be symmetrical and consequently beautiful. Yet it was the flaws in nature that triggered my interest," says Wun.
"For the Burnt collection I wanted to do something where I had no control over the outcome, so I used a heat gun to melt the fabric. This way it's impossible to make the same pattern."
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Wun has spent the past five years in London, graduating from the London College of Fashion last year. Now he's consumed with his couture collection. "It's going to have lots of bones and skulls and butterflies." But animal rights activists can breathe easy. "The bones are from animals that have died in the wild, so in a way it's recycling.
"I also have a piece called 'Frost' which was inspired by the Japanese author and scientist Masaru Emoto. He's done some really interesting research into how the human consciousness can effect the molecular structure of water."
Science, nature, religion and art play roles in Wun's designs. He loves the work of Alexander McQueen. "It was sad when he died so early - he had much more to offer. He was a true artist who stood by his vision without being swayed by the commercial side of the industry."
As we speak, Hong Kong fashion blogger Cindy Ko emerges from Joyce's dressing room in one of Wun's white ruffled creations. She is a walking endorsement for his work.
"It's great to see Cindy in one of my dresses. It takes a lot of confidence to wear my designs but that's the type of woman, I'm appealing to - bold, daring and confident."