IN BOTH The Joy Luck Club and Romeo Must Die , Russell Wong plays smooth, sinister types, wildly attractive characters who turn out to be quite deadly, or very mean. In his non-celluloid life, Wong is a novice fashion designer who is trading on his screen image to help sell a new line of men's clothes. RGW - Russell Gerard Wong - will be officially unveiled tomorrow, at the Beijing Nationality Cultural Palace, in what is being billed as China's first design-led fashion event, featuring dozens of designers, models and catwalk shows. Wong will send out a succession of male models wearing baseball caps and polo tops, velvet shirts and woollen suits, for an audience that will hopefully like the clothes and buy the spiel ('At its core is the sexual charisma of the modern individual . . . with a bold Chinese attitude'). The new designer won't be alone up there. Also presenting her latest collection will be Flora Cheong-Leen, the glamorous maker of flashy, inexpensive clothes, who is also Wong's collaborator. The partners have known one another for 17 years - they studied dance together at the Jean Wong School of Ballet. And when they step out together, people turn to stare and the paparazzi are delighted. The venture, which involves Cheong-Leen taking Wong through the manufacturing side of the business, while the actor focuses on the design aspect, seems to be a natural alliance. 'We kept in touch,' says Wong of his relationship with Cheong-Leen. 'And when I was in Singapore several months ago shooting Monkey King , we met up again, I saw her designs, and I loved everything she was doing.' An old love - drawing - was thus re-kindled: Wong says he has had a lifelong interest in design, art, fashion. 'I have stacks of GQ copies in my closet,' he says. 'I am such a fashion freak.' He had studied fashion illustration at Santa Monica City College, and taken courses at famed fashion school Parsons in New York. Then he discovered he had thespian proclivities. Years later, in addition to a gently percolating career in Hollywood, which he tends to from his New York base, Wong has decided to try fashion again. 'It can be overwhelming, but we're taking it slowly,' he says of the collection, which he describes as 'casual and smart'. Whether Wong's Hollywood status helps to sell RGW in China remains to be seen. But, as Cheong-Leen points out, he is an actor 'established in the West' whose father is from Shanghai and whose roots are in China. 'There is a positive international feeling that will be appealing,' says Cheong-Leen. 'Young people in China are into Channel [V], and they will probably love the image Russell has.' After its debut tomorrow, the collection will sell through a few department stores, before having a permanent home at Plaza 66 - Shanghai's most up-scale shopping mall - when it officially opens next year. There, RGW will hang alongside Cheong-Leen's Tien Art label. The duo then plan to bring it to the Hong Kong Fashion Week in January, New York City's fashion event in February - and from there, the world. 'Like Tom Ford, who's the image behind Gucci, Russell will be the image behind RGW . . . representing the modern man,' says Cheong-Leen. 'Virile,' answers Wong, himself not too shabby in the hunk stakes, when asked to describe the collection. The partners are confident they will canvass legions of buyers via the Internet - specifically through Cheong-Leen's e-tail site www.tianart.com , on which RGW will be available. We are working towards the future, making China our first target and then establishing a global image,' says Cheong-Lee. Through the site, the collection will be 20 per cent cheaper than at retail: caps for around HK$100, T-shirts for HK$100 to HK$200. Wong has infused the collection with a soupcon of fun: a band of orange on the label is the same colour as monks' saffron robes; a small figure embroidered on a polo shirt is in a martial-arts pose; and there are yin-yang motifs everywhere. 'I like to think of myself as the artistic director of the line,' says Wong. 'I want to be hands-on, at least for the first couple of years.' Not that he is letting his acting career fall by the wayside. Wong says he's up for a pilot and continues to field scripts. But the fashion project will give him something to focus on while he's waiting for the right part. 'Having this business will allow me to be selective,' he says. 'In the movie business there are no guarantees. But what is sure is that people still need to eat, and they still need to wear clothes.'