MARK Bloom is much more than just a fashion designer. Mastermind of a hip, young, street-wise fashion brand called Jo Komodo, the British-born Bloom is also a self-styled political activist, surfer, committed clubber and de facto cool dude. Being young (30), fashionable and fashionably aware, Bloom does not limit his sphere of knowledge to the cut of a tight-fitting Lycra T-shirt or the best fabric for snow-boarding shorts. Politics, for Bloom, is inseparable from fashion, which is why when I met him at the Hong Kong airport hotel, on the first leg of a journey that will take him to Bali, Singapore, Kathmandu, Paris and London in the space of six weeks, he flips open his notebook and reads me his latest poem about the Spratly Islands. Politics and surfing sometimes seem the same Big fish and high water make a dangerous game Cutting in can cause countries stress and grief Half a dozen nations washed up on Mischief Reef You don't have to be as smart as a fashion designer To hear a 100-year storm brewing up in China. Jo Komodo says draw lots for the Spratly Islands. It is a perfect, childlike solution to a grown-up political conundrum but one that is unlikely to go down too well with Deng Xiaoping or Lee Teng-hui. Paramount leaders the world over, however, should beware, for Bloom has an effective propaganda machine for his ideas: his poem will eventually be printed on swing tags and attached to the buttonholes of several hundred plastic biker jackets, which will be sold in 32 countries, instilling Bloom's ideological message in young minds more efficiently than any government campaign. 'I feel a responsibility to make political comments because of the position I'm in and the media attention I get. If I can use my position to do something good, then so much the better,' announces the diminutive, dark-haired designer. Bloom modestly puts his success down to the fortuitous outcome of 'trial and error' but he is typical of the kind of talent that hails from the British fashion scene: irreverent, committed and, above all, idiosyncratic. The only difference is that he has an untypically British eye for business. His story is a classic 1980s tale of north London-boy-makes-good with a rare '90s happy ending. Bloom's career kicked off in the heady days of acid house and Gordon ('Greed is good') Gekko. Unlike many retailers, however, he weathered the storm of European recession with his principles and enviable lifestyle intact. He travels the world, surfs its beaches, has houses in Bali and Kathmandu and runs a successful business with friends from school (of whom Bloom is the eldest), manufacturing some 100,000 garments every year. He has achieved all this not with a fashion degree or family money but because, despite enjoying the odd drug-enhanced night raving in clubs, Bloom has got his head firmly screwed on. Having left school at 17 and backpacked round Asia, Bloom went into business with a cousin in 1986, making jeans jackets in London's Brick Lane, the traditional home of Pakistani sweat shops and Jewish merchants. After two years, he was bored and ready to give up but then came 'the summer of love' or, to put it more prosaically, the summer of 1988, when ecstasy, warehouse parties and Smiley badges took urban youth culture by the scruff of its buzz-cut neck. Bloom's ticket to rag-trade success was a box of fluorescent surf shorts, sent to him from Bali by his backpacking sister. 'Acid house was wild,' says Bloom. 'It totally shook to the core what going out was all about and the shorts were perfect. I got them on the Friday night and by Sunday we were on the plane flying to Bali. I came back about five days later with as many bags as I could carry.' The timing was perfect for Bloom and his group of slacker friends, for whom office jobs and suits were anathema. 'Fashion was just the vehicle,' he says unashamedly. 'The whole Bali thing happened just when my friends were leaving college. It was the most wonderful vehicle for us to escape the real world. We didn't have to get proper jobs: we could go to Bali and run between factories on our motorbikes and go surfing.' The name Jo Komodo was coined (he liked it because it sounded international) and Bloom developed manufacturing bases all over the developing world, from Guatemala to Indonesia. He no longer sold his clothes from the back of a car, as he had done in the early days, but from a Jo Komodo store in London's fashionable Covent Garden. But rave culture, like fashion, proved to be a fickle master. By 1991, the demand for ponchos with pixie hoods (Bloom's best-selling item in the summer of 1990) was replaced by a new craze for LA Raiders gear and Americana. Jo Komodo flirted with bankruptcy and Bloom found himself traipsing around Europe and the US trying to sell off unwanted stock. 'We should have gone bust,' he says. But they didn't. Instead, as rave culture evolved from its hard-edged beginnings to a more ethnic, grunge style, so did Komodo. 'With fashion you can't just say, we're there, we're funky. As fashion changes, we change. But while the Komodo range is different, season to season, the feeling is the same,' explains Bloom. By that he means the clothes are designed to appeal unfailingly to his customers; 'young, thinking, fashionable people' who spend their nights in clubs and their days in arty jobs that do not require a suit. Among them is the politically correct, jazz-funk band, Jamiroquai, whose lead singer, Jason Kay, was so impressed with the Komodo range that he asked Bloom to help him design his own Jamiroquai line, called Orenda. Although Bloom is a champion of cultural and political causes - the Spratlys, Tibet and Hong Kong post-1997 among them - when it comes to fashion, he is sharp enough to realise that only multiple vision will see him to the top. The four Komodo lines, for both men and women, cover the fashion spectrum, from the street to the club to the beach. There is Naturally Komodo - made from hand-woven linen, cotton and hemp - and there are lines like Feisty Girrls (sic) and Globe Trotters, which include chinoiserie tops, quilted satin miniskirts and fish-leather boots. 'Although we are committed to environmentalism, you cannot deny progress,' Bloom says. Besides which, the more commercially successful he is, the more he can say what he wants and live how he pleases. 'If you're seen to be successful, people listen to what you say. If we were a bunch of hippy-go-lucky kids who made funky clothes and had a few strange ideas but didn't make any money, then it [would be considered] all very quaint. But if we are successful, with strong ideas, then we're something different and people respect us.' The measure of Jo Komodo's success is simple. When Bloom first came to Hong Kong in 1985, he lived in Chungking Mansions and earned $1,000 a month working for a manufacturing company in the New World Tower. When he comes to the territory these days, he pays $1,000 a night for a room at the New World Hotel. Post-1997, Bloom is particularly concerned about the future of Hong Kong nightclubs. For the night of the handover, he is planning an alternative to cocktails at Government House and shark's fin soup at Xinhua: a Jo Komodo fashion party, something 'clever, fashionable, poignant and cool' to which he will invite only the world's hippest. 'No one knows what's going to happen after 1997. I have friends here and I think they are quite scared. But I want this to be the beginning of a new era, I want to link the street culture and fashion of Hong Kong and London and keep the youth culture of Hong Kong in touch.'