Flying Sand

Hong Kong’s leader needs to ditch the catwalk claptrap and fashion a real future for the city

Niall Fraser argues that the city’s chief executive should not demean herself, her position and women in general by turning herself into a walking mannequin

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 December, 2017, 9:33am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 December, 2017, 9:59am

Newsrooms are quiet at this time of the year as journalists scrabble to fill space with reflections on the year past and predictions for the one ahead. The former is an exact science and the latter a stab in the dark.

I sincerely hope it was the above imperative which spawned the following headline earlier in the week: “Carrie Lam’s fashion style comes with a purpose: to promote Hong Kong’s creative industries”.

In 14 words, the leader of a major world city going through one of the most turbulent periods in its history is reduced to a walking mannequin. But here’s the even scarier part – Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor appears to be complicit.

“I am the first female chief executive of Hong Kong,” she told RTHK on Monday. “My policy address also promises to promote the creative industry in Hong Kong. Fashion design is an important part of the creative industry that means the most to women.

“If I paid more attention to my appearance, people might think that the proficiency of design industry isn’t too bad in a city with such a chief executive.”

Respectfully, that is not your job Mrs Lam. The fashion and design industry has a multibillion-dollar advertising machine to promote its wares. Leave it to them and their stick-thin clothes horses.

Does anyone – apart from those with a vested interest to sell fashion – really think that what our chief executive wears to this meeting, that summit or whatever duty visit to Beijing has any material bearing on anything of substance which takes place? Surely not.

To indulge in this sexist bilge is unbecoming, even if it is a misguided attempt to deflect from discussion of the really serious issues.

And Lam is not alone in embracing this tosh. The media – in its east, west, north and south incarnations – trots out the same fashion-stakes drivel every time the wife or significant other of a leader steps onto the world stage.

The justification being that it is only a bit of light relief from the weighty nature of the rest of the coverage, and anyway, people love reading about and looking at pictures of nice clothes.

People like porn too, but let’s not go there.

Back to the chief executive and her wardrobe dilemmas.

Lam said she was “upset” that she had to make all of the fashion decisions for official and diplomatic occasions by herself.

“People thought I had a personal stylist by my side like the popular stars. Actually I don’t. I am all on my own. I have to get all the clothes matched and packed before heading to, for example, a three-day trip with eight public events scheduled,” Lam said.

Again, respectfully chief executive, are you aware how bad that sounds?

For the sake of Hong Kong, and your own credibility, avoid the catwalk trap and fashion a real leadership legacy for yourself.

Niall Fraser is a senior writer at the Post