The Midas Touch / 天衣無縫 / Australian Exclusive
Titi Kwan Interview / with Romi Lai [Sittings Editor/Hong Kong]
Questions By Kyle Johnson. Images courtesy of Titi Kwan Studio
Gabrielle Sauve [Editor at Large]/ Translated by Chris Cheng [EIC] LAB Gallerie
In an industry that prides itself on Fashion moments, the creative force behind the current crop of celebrities, actors, models and artists’ has become increasingly important to stand out in an overcrowded market space. Enter the realm of Celebrity stylists, where the term “image is everything” is befitting, with a global audience reach into the hundreds of millions, even a billion (i.e. CCTV’s Lunar New years performance, the Chinese equivalent to the Superbowl or a comeback Concert in 2018 as in the case) for the immaculate Chinese Songstress, Faye Wong, by stylist & designer, Titi Kwan. The softly spoken, Kwan becomes our focus in this ARTE series of interviews, where we learn the story behind the visionary. Known for his unconventional taste level, often mixing couture looks with the purist of views, Kwan has helped to keep Faye Wong’s image at the forefront for over a decade and a half. In this rarely granted Australian exclusive, LAB Gallerie is given access to interview Titi Kwan in Hong Kong, with our Sittings editor, Romi Lai and Editor at Large, Gabrielle Sauve.
GS/ You’re quite elusive as far as the press and media goes, Have you always naturally been a shy person, or do you think it comes from being able to enjoy what you share, after having little privacy when you were a child and had to share your home space?
TK/ When I was a child, I didn’t see my [extended] family so much as we lived in a small flat. I think, Kid’s need to be surrounded by family / a community even.
GS/You have said that you dislike compliments because you think they ‘kill the creative spirit’ – What would be the best compliment someone could give you?
TK/ I’ve refused alot of interviews previously because it’s hard for me to clearly express what I have in mind. My position involves being creative behind the scenes, with no wishes to cross that boundary, even less desire to become a celebrity, without having to continually explain myself. I used to think compliments could kill creativity as I saw lots of cases that illustrated that. I saw compliments as a dangerous thing, even now, they are not that important to me.
GS/ Do you ever regret not finishing your studies / degree at Studio Bercot in Paris?
TK/ One of my regrets about learning is probably never assisting, It’s funny, but looking back, I had never finished my studies. I suppose it also could of been helpful to save and skip some of the mistakes I’ve made.
GS/ Do you have any special memories of your experience working in a restaurant as a part-time job? Did you have customers at the restaurant who knew your passion for fashion and encouraged your ambitions?
TK/ When I worked in the restaurant, part of the challenge was not to break things. My record in the 8 years of working there was only breaking, 2 glasses and 1 bottle.
GS/ Your relationship with Faye Wong has spanned over a decade and a half now. Do you still remember the day you met? Did you know how much your futures and careers would be intertwined?
TK/ Of course I remember the first day I met Faye. Personally, I didn’t think about how things were going to be. The only thing I was thinking was; I needed work, so to do my best.
GS/ You chose to launch your first fashion collection under the name Alibellus, which means ‘memorandum’. This is an unusual word in a much unknown language that must have special meaning – why does this word mean so much to you?
TK/ The name of Alibellus is a play on the twisted. Like the post it notes, the colourful sticky notes that we write on. The dichotomy, to me, both serves as a reminder to do things, but also forget when it’s done.
GS/ Your father was a tailor and must have been an influence on you, but which big-name designers are your ‘icons’, for all you are largely regarded as a legend yourself?
TK/ I respect and admire alot of designers, Madeleine Vionnet is on the top of my list and my favourite French fashion designer.
[Born in Loiret, France, June 22, 1876 – March 2, 1975, Vionnet trained in London before returning to France to establish her first fashion house in Paris in 1912. Although it was forced to close in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War, it re-opened after the war and Vionnet became one of the leading designers in Paris between the Wars [1919-1939]. Vionnet was forced to close her house in 1939 and retired in 1940. Called the “Queen of the bias cut” and “the architect among dressmakers”, Vionnet is best known today for her elegant Grecian-style dresses and for popularising the bias cut within the fashion world and is credited with inspiring a number of recent designers.] Source: Wikipedia.
GS/ How does your family feel about your achievements both as a stylist and as a designer? Has your father ever helped you with the handmade items?
TK/ Being highly visual, my works are mostly in my mind, so it did become difficult for my father to help and I seldom asked. When I was 18, I recall he did attempt to rework my top to a proper fitting tee shirt [which was a bias draped top from the first commercial collection from designer, John Galliano].
GS/ You have described yourself as a gentleman and the importance of being ‘nice’ – do you think this has helped you more in your career, or in your personal life?
TK/ Maybe my family would think something like, “Thank God, He’s not that bad”. And to be honest, I really don’t think about it much in that way.
GS/ You have a very humble attitude towards your own status in the celebrity stakes, Do you think it is this ability to put your own ego aside, in favour of expressing your passion, that has given you such an edge and so much success over the last two decades?
TK/ I don’t believe in having elements of arrogance. But frankly speaking, I am not that humble.
GS/ Let’s explore your work with Faye Wong, who has achieved great success in her career. Your friendship and close working relationship, has survived all of these highs and lows; Faye must mean a great deal to you. If you had to liken her to something, what would it be and why?
TK/ Faye is never an object of desire for me. She is organic, someone who I see growing and continually evolving. Possibly for this reason, I often use botanical elements when creating a vision for her.
GS/ Tell us about your current obsessions?
TK/ I am now in another learning phrase. Having recently adopted three big dogs, cultivating more than 200 varieties of roses and finishing a collection.
GS/ The most notable places you have lived have been Paris or Hong Kong – are there other fashion-famous cities you would like to spend more time in, such a London or New York? TK/ Beijing or Shanghai, China.
GS/ What do you see next for the Alibellus fashion brand?
TK/ For the label, we make handmade leathergoods and accessories as an outlet to translate things I’ve seen and heard all during these years, to my studio. It doesn’t mean I’ve totally skip fashion. Maybe, I will do a presentation in 2018. [Titi Kwan held a salon presentation late June, 2018 in Shanghai, China].