Local brand Ground Zero brings kudos to Hong Kong's fashion scene
The West has generally overlooked Hong Kong in its quest to conquer China's luxury market and find the next big Chinese designer. But the city has received some serious fashion kudos thanks to homegrown label Ground Zero, founded by Hong Kong brothers Eri and Philip Chu.
Ground Zero made its international debut in Paris just two years ago, but it has quickly become a favourite among fashion editors and celebrities. Fan Bingbing, Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie, and Rita Ora are among those who have worn its creations. The brand was recently crowned winners of the mainland television contest Goddess' New Clothes, a win that secured their status there.
The brothers started designing in 2003, when they created a collection of printed T-shirts that became popular with pop stars such as Sammi Cheng Sau-man and Gillian Chung Yan-tung. Philip lived in Britain for a few years while Eri stayed in Hong Kong, but Philip moved back in 2009 and they launched Ground Zero in 2012.
They reached their first big milestone soon after, when they hosted their debut runway show in Paris. The edgy collection featured feminine details mixed with their signature dark prints and futuristic shapes. But now they have decided on a rethink.
"We understood from the second we decided to show in Paris that we must up our game and take it to the global level," Philip says. "For this reason, we took a quick break and used that time to rebuild our infrastructure. We came back with a whole new energy for spring-summer 2015."
When they returned to the schedule in October, it was clear that the designers had done a lot of thinking. For spring-summer 2015, they are still playing with elements of pop culture, designing a collection that straddles the line between street style and ready-to-wear.
Many of the looks have an air of sophistication, with feminine silhouettes including pencil skirts, cropped tops with ruffles, and dresses with banded, voluminous sleeves.
Others, such as the denim style silk overalls, pay homage to the street. Details include bursts of bold colour or cool, graphic prints ranging from tattoos to barbed wire.
A mix of luxe and technical fabrics such as organza, mesh and silk elevates the collection.
"Our conventional take on ready-to-wear is inevitably relevant to the resurgence of street wear's lingua franca, where most of our inspiration is drawn from," says Eri.
"The printed one-piece is my favourite; we've taken an outrageous graffiti print and made it into a classic silhouette. The tattoo-printed coat is another statement-making piece that might transition into a Ground Zero signature."
Philip adds: "We have always tried to explore new shapes, so we are constantly reworking and creating something new and fresh. It's not so much about aesthetic changes, but making improvements. Our customers want to celebrate creativity."
It seems the brothers' hard work has paid off. The brand is now in more than 60 international retailers, including Dover Street Market in London and I.T in Hong Kong. They say sales have doubled.
They continue to build the label with various collaborative items such as shoes (with local brand Staccato), eyewear by South Korean brand Gentle Monster and iPhone cases, which will debut in the spring-summer line.
They're happy with their latest look, but are still looking ahead. "I do see other brands, the legacy ones as well as newcomers, as equal. We are all there because we all have something to contribute. We never focus on our advantages or disadvantages; we focus on our path, and where we want to go," says Philip.
"Your mentality shouldn't be about making it big. We've learned to think of it all as an experience. When other designers ask for our advice, we tell them to work with as many people as possible. Find a way to use that to expand your creative horizons, both personally and professionally. Don't give up, and never forget why you do it in the first place."