The last time Francis Hooper set foot in Hong Kong - more than a decade ago - it was as an impoverished student taking a year off to work as a receptionist at the Regent Hotel. The Hong Kong-born, University of Auckland-educated fashion designer, now 34, returned last month with his business partner and wife, Denise L'Estrange-Corbet, to attend the Trade Development Council's Fashion Week, debuting their winter collection for their label, World. 'When I land in Hong Kong, I feel great and secure. But I think it is an ironic twist. I'm representing my new home but I'm showing my old home my fashion,' he said. Born to an Australian father and Chinese mother, Hooper emigrated to New Zealand with his family in 1973 when they 'lost everything' on the stock market. He returned every summer to visit his grandparents until he was 21. Hooper said it was his Hong Kong experience that helped him become a stronger designer. 'I was here in my formative years. Going to a European school, I was always number two and I think I learned how to survive being an outsider. You will have a point of view that is slightly different to everyone else's.' Hooper's designs - feathered cocktail dresses, sequinned jumpsuits and glitter suits for men - have been turning heads. 'My clothes really stick out like the biggest sore thumb in New Zealand but I can't help it. I think even if you don't try, Hong Kong rubs off on you and you get that international feeling.' World's winter collection was named 2525 because, Hooper said, he could not stand the constant talk about the millennium. 'Everyone is talking about the 'new millennium this-and-that', and I was sick of it. I wanted to look ahead a little to make my collection stand out more. I tried to think what a woman will be wearing in 2525.' The 70-piece collection, including knitwear and dyed sheepskin, is mainly based on and inspired by the New Zealand-developed fibre, pole worth, a pioneer wool with a cashmere feel but priced as wool, which is expected to become a major export for the country. World also made its debut this month on the London catwalks. Hooper stumbled into the fashion world in 1982 when a holiday to London went wrong. With only GBP200 (HK$2,520), no return ticket, and his only contact out of town, he was forced to find work. 'I went to the West End and went to every boutique there. I ended up working for Michiko Koshino and her husband. She was crazy in her design and for me it was first-hand experience,' he said. 'She would create something in plastic and nylon and the customer would buy it. For me the learning curve was incredible.' He later worked for Agee Cheek - the British equivalent of Joyce - where he befriended John Galliano, a struggling young designer back then, whose label was bought by the boutique. During a trip to Paris two years later, he was caught working on a student visa and sent back to New Zealand, where he met L'Estrange-Corbet, a London College of Fashion graduate. The couple started from humble beginnings in a 100-square-foot shop in New Zealand in 1989. 'In the beginning, we were only able to make accessories as we didn't have the money [to do anything more]. A year later we bought a sewing machine,' said Hooper. From that small shop in Auckland, the partnership has slowly expanded to a client base of seven shops in Australia, New Zealand and London. The couple's dream is to have 20 clients in leading cities. The couple were spotted by fashion icon Anna Piaggi of Italian Vogue in 1997. The same year, during the Sydney Fashion Week, the New York department store Barney's offered to place an open order with them. 'It was a golden opportunity but we had to turn them down. The order was so big, six figures, but we didn't have the infrastructure. 'We were thrown into the international circuit by our talent but no one told us what we had to know.'