Design dream team

By Kevin Kung

Two former Hong Kong rowers have teamed up again to launch their own company, creating quirky 'street culture' clothing that makes you think twice

By Kevin Kung |

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Raymond Cheung (left) and Edwin Tang wear T-shirts of their own design.

Edwin Tang Tsz-hau and Raymond Cheung Yan-man, both 20, used to be teammates on Hong Kong's rowing squad, winning medals at international competitions.

Now they have teamed up again to launch Not Sure, a company designing youth "street culture" clothing.

Cheung quit rowing in 2011 to focus on his studies, but the pair kept in touch; Tang contacted Cheung when about to set up his business.

"Raymond always impressed me with his fashion sense; he always wore stylish sports gear and T-shirts when we were training together," says Tang, who is studying for a Yi Jin Diploma in fashion design and styling with the Open University of Hong Kong.

"When friends suggested I set up my own fashion label, I thought of Raymond; I was confident his arts and design talents would help it to succeed."

They launched the company last July and chose to focus on designs that are halfway between original ideas and designs inspired by other products. "Our brand is called 'Not Sure', because there are many possibilities in the development of our business," says Cheung, a Year One student in visual arts at the Hong Kong Institute of Education.

"It also suggests we are not sure what we'll do next, or what kinds of products to release in the future.

"We looked at other local brands and thought we could easily make a fortune just by producing T-shirt designs similar to those from South Korea. But we also felt it wouldn't be sustainable, and wanted to do something unique."

The duo wanted a brand with a slightly quirky, sarcastic tone, with designs that made people take a second look.

With an initial investment of less than HK$7,000, Tang and Cheung produced 90 T-shirts, all of which had the word "Dislike" printed in a font similar to the Disney logo. And all the T-shirts sold out quickly. "Our first product had a dig at how Disney turns every story into a fairy-tale film - not everyone likes such films," says Tang, who quit the rowing team as the first T-shirt design was launched last October.

"Two T-shirts we're selling this month [pictured] feature cartoon characters similar to those in The Simpsons; they wear a mask, or Korean-style clothes, and trendy trainers. You can interpret them in different ways, which is part of the fun with our products."

To avoid breaking copyright laws, all five sold-out items created so far suggest, rather than copy, the original themes, and are not more than 60 per cent identical to the originals.

Cheung draws up the designs while Tang focuses on marketing and sales. They sell their products at a trendy clothes store in Kwai Chung, and also via Instagram and Facebook.

"I always try to attend opening ceremonies and public relations events to build up contacts," Tang says.

"I'm a part-time model, so sometimes I invite other models or artists to wear our T-shirts. They are influential in our brand's growth."

Tang and Cheung are hoping to develop a brand which will grow big enough to allow them to open their own shops after they graduate next year. "First, we need to diversify, so we sell not only clothing, but accessories and other trendy items, too," Cheung says.

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