Bling it on
Venna's jewellery is making a big statement locally and abroad, writes Abid Rahman
"I make things that are luxurious, classic and fun," says Patrick Wong with an emphasis on fun. Wong is the creative genius behind Venna, the eclectic and super-glam handmade-in-Hong Kong jewellery brand beloved by the city's fashionistas and increasingly by fashion lovers abroad.
For now Wong is working with Harvey Nichols to launch an exclusive Christmas collection for the department store. And the collection is classic Wong: eye-catching, chunky and eclectic with some new design elements that are a departure from a tried-and-trusted method.
"I was asked to do something new, using new design elements like the tiger motif." Always charming, cheery and candid, Wong admits that Harvey Nichols didn't ask him to stray too far from what he's good at. "I was told to make something big, something that would draw attention. Something chunky and bling bling, so it's a bit over the top," he says with a laugh.
Venna began life in 2005 after a deep discussion with friends about what he should do struck upon the idea of handmade jewellery. However, Wang's journey to Venna was not always smooth - or that orthodox. Wong took the less-stellar textile design course at Central Saint Martins in London and learnt a great deal about material science that would become useful. "I was doing a lot of weaving and loved it. There weren't any famous guys from my group, but I loved it there. I was weaving every day."
After graduation and two years working for a garment company in Hong Kong, Wong's life took its first major twist. "I went to work for my uncle's factory in China. I was there for three years designing artificial flowers and really enjoyed it." He seems to have put as much passion into artificial flowers as textiles, making sure they were as luxurious and as beautiful as possible.
Having gained mainland work experience, however, Wong wanted to create something of his own, and conversations with friends led to the idea of a jewellery brand. "One of my friends told me his wife was buying a fashion accessory and was changing it every season. So I thought there was something in that."
From its early days exhibiting at Hong Kong jewellery fairs, Venna now shows only in Paris twice a year, but each year the brand broadens its global reach. And South Korea was paying attention, as Venna turned up in an unexpected but welcome place: on the neck of K-pop star Hyuna who stars in Psy's music video sensation, Gangnam-Style. Although the YouTube clip drew more than 800 million views Wong was oblivious to perhaps the ultimate form of free marketing.
"I found out a few months after the video came out. A friend was watching the clip on MTV and called to tell me that one of the girls was wearing my necklace. The buyer for Harvey Nichols Hong Kong then told me that the buyer for the Gangnam-Style video bought most things in Hong Kong."
From Central Saint Martins, to artificial flowers to a K-pop sensation, Wong's journey has been as unpredictable as some of his jewellery. Which may be why he doesn't want to speculate about the future. "I never think about how big I'm going to be, but focus more on each season." At the suggestion his life may take another dramatic twist, Wong simply smiles.
Venna's S/S 2013 collection is available at Harvey Nichols, The Landmark, 16 Des Voeux Road Central, T 3695 3388