Cory Quach, the professor of fashion marketing and management at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) Hong Kong, talks about falling into fashion on a whim, the city's potential as a style hub and misconceptions about the industry.
What made you choose fashion as a career? I didn't choose fashion, it chose me. When I was in college there were few programmes in fashion. As a product of an Asian family, fashion was not a viable career path. In fact, I was planning on a career in intelligence; I studied international relations with a focus on Asia. Around the time I graduated, I was applying for top-secret clearance with the United States government. While waiting for clearance I applied for the buyer training programme for Macy's (May Company at the time). Fashion was a personal interest but I never felt I could have a career in it, so I applied on a whim. I got the job and fashion intelligence became my career path.
Tell us about your journey to Hong Kong … My first position in fashion was in buying for the Texas division of Macy's department stores. I then moved to product development in St Louis and eventually to New York, to launch two private brands for the company. After going between the west coast and east coast in stints at BCBG, DKNY Jeans, Arden B and Urban Outfitters, I decided to go back to school to get an MBA. With an MBA I had an opportunity to transition into beauty with L'Oreal. But I wanted to do something more meaningful and that drew me to academia. The decision to move to Hong Kong was a seamless transition in my life. It brought together the three things I love most: fashion, education and Asia.
What do you find are the biggest misconceptions among your students about the fashion industry? I try to help students understand that success in the industry is based on building strong networks so they can learn from others. They should understand that the industry is not just about red carpets and fashion shows. Everyone works really hard to become successful in a competitive and saturated market.
Do you think Hong Kong could ever be a fashion hub? Hong Kong can be, but not in the same way as the other major cities like New York and Paris. Hong Kong is similar in that it has a rich history in garment making and tailoring that is still valid today. With the current focus on bespoke and handmaking, local designers could develop a unique position in that market.
Where can you see Hong Kong's most stylish people? I tend to see the most stylish people just walking up and down the street on Hollywood Road between Central and Sai Ying Pun. But my definition of style is very understated. I notice small things like disproportions, fabric texture and balance. Subtlety is the most stylish to me.
Who are your style heroes? I have to go with James Dean, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Tom Waits. I'm all about denim, T-shirts, black blazers and boots. They are simple, iconic and rugged.