How did you get your start as a fashion designer? I've always liked fashion, but growing up [in Hong Kong and Canada], I never studied it formally. I started by doing styling, but I was always undecided on whether I wanted to study fashion seriously. When I was 23, I started making my own collections, even though I had no official fashion training. I made a few pieces from scratch and, luckily, Neiman Marcus and then Bergdorf Goodman bought the collection in 1999. At the time, it was all about evening dresses with beaded lace, lots of hand work, hand finishings and details. I wanted the pieces to be sold on the contemporary floors, but Bergdorf placed me alongside brands like Oscar de la Renta, so my work was immediately seen as formal eveningwear. It was quite popular, so I continued doing it for six seasons. Why did you decide to go back to school when your line was such a success? I went to Paris in 2002, where I secured an internship at Lanvin for six months. Everyone I worked with at the studio had done a masters at Central Saint Martin's College, so they encouraged me to check it out. I knew it was difficult to get in, but I met the course director with my portfolio. They accepted me and I moved to London for two years. It was interesting because it meant that I was thinking about design in a different way. I didn't want to learn anything I already knew. I wanted to gain a whole new perspective and learn about building a concept rather than the technical aspects of fashion design. It was about taking an idea and researching it. Did your style change after your experience at St Martin's? Yes, dramatically. In the past I preferred clothes that were more refined, more feminine, more glam - Hong Kong people love glamour. What really changed was my appreciation of raw pieces that were less produced, broken down and unique. London is about concept and shaping that, rather than workmanship. I focused more on taking an idea and making it interesting, so it was a different process altogether. After you returned to Hong Kong in 2005, it took a while before you started making clothes again. After St Martin's, I was unsure about what I wanted to do, so I went back to styling. In 2006, I did a project for the Trade Development Council creating a capsule collection and putting on a show. I didn't think about building a brand; it was just exciting to show my clothes. After that, I had many ideas but nothing concrete. That changed when I joined Shanghai Tang as chief designer for womenswear in 2007. What appealed to you about the brand? I liked the aesthetic and that it was a Hong Kong brand. I was most attracted to its connection to Chinese culture. Maybe it's because as you get older you want to return to your roots, but that part really appealed to me. I wanted to take the brand's perspective and create collections based on it. What is the inspiration behind the spring collection? There were many influences, but one strong element came from Chinese contemporary art, which is about finding your roots and questioning one's identity. I was particularly inspired by performance artist Zhang Huan, who takes elements from his past, such as family photos, and eats them. It was about revisiting history and reworking it to make it relevant now. This can be seen in pieces such as the scholar robes, which have been updated in leather and with different sleeves. I also wanted to have items that were versatile, like the hook dress which can be worn as a dress or coat. I like it when someone can take the item and wear it in their own way. I used to be a stylist, so that's where it comes from. What can we expect this year? For autumn, I did a mini jewellery collection to go with the clothes. The ready-to-wear line is a continuation of spring, although it's a bit more romantic, with draping and softer elements. We also looked at Indonesian and Malaysian-Chinese cultures and incorporated their bright colours, mixing it with art deco and Bauhaus elements. For me, it's important to be consistent and show new and different ways to reinterpret 'Chinese-ness'. I want to break away from stereotypes and play with proportion and silhouette.