Fashion has been a “long journey” for 30-year-old Kai Yeung Yau, he says. Hong Kong-raised, London-educated, and now Shenzhen-based, the designer’s path across the world is evident in his fashion brand Archiché, which blends cues from near and far into exciting, ready-to-wear pieces.
Archiché, a combination of the words “archive” and “cliché,” represents Yau’s belief that clichés aren’t a bad thing, he tells us. (Read our full interview below.)
We’re especially inspired by his one of his early collections, “A Woman Who Carried Three Generations”. The designs are tributes to the women who laboured to build Hong Kong — in homes and in factories — during the 1960s and 1970s. Incorporating Hong Kong’s legendary plastic Red-A kitchenware, the collection channels the founding spirit of the city.
Remarkably, his work is priced accessibly (think COS prices) and aimed at all women. The designs are easy to wear and season-less, ensuring that the pieces won’t be quickly discarded.
Yau’s newest collection will be on view at a showroom exhibition in Shenzhen this weekend (details at the bottom). No pictures yet, he says — you’ll have to go see it in person.
Interview and story by Luna Lo. Writing and editing by Wilfred Chan.
Still / Loud: Your brand name is Archiché, what is the meaning of it? And why?
Yeung Yau: I am just combining “Archive” and “Cliché”, because I don’t think being cliché is a bad thing. Rather, I think as a brand it’s good to let people stereotype what you are doing. But what I am doing may not exactly be what they are expecting. I am in love with these unpredictable differences, so I started to archive it as a project.
Why is being cliché not a bad thing?
Seven years ago, Hilary Alexander said in an interview that my graduation collection [from 2010] was like “Kung Hei Fat Choy”. I was thinking, “Is it because of the red and gold or the significant Chinese floral print?” I found it really funny to let people guess and have their very straightforward understanding. Whether they get close or not, they have already remembered you, which is very important.
We still love that collection, how do you feel when looking back on it?
The collection was a real cliché, I swear, but honestly, I still love them. It’s so remarkable and keeps reminding me who I really am.
How has Hong Kong inspired you in your work, and your new collection?
I like styling. I love to mix and match. Today you can almost get anything worldwide in Hong Kong, from East to West, high to low, and in and out. It inspired me to make some pieces that are out of the ordinary. The result is maybe weird but I hope it can show more interesting style possibilities.
How would you describe the ladies who wear Archiché?
They are curious, and they don’t do the usual.
Tell us about your journey in fashion.
It’s really a long journey after my graduation in London. I participated in a reality show and worked in Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen in the past 7 years. My journey is like the traffic in Beijing, always getting stuck somewhere in the middle for no reason, but, you know, it’s worth waiting for the best to come.
Do you find it challenging to balance between creativity and doing business?
No, I don’t think so. Creativity can be affordable and sellable. It’s just about quality. I recently read an academic paper regarding the age and active life of clothing. It turns out that people discard their garments mostly because of quality or physical changes, more than their outdated-ness. So, for everything in business, quality comes first.
Your studio is now based in Shenzhen. How are you finding the city?
Well, Shenzhen may not be a fashion city, but the fashion industry is growing up rapidly here. It is like an artisan mother having an infant baby named Fashion. It’s good to have full resources and support for a start-up business like us. If you’d like to explore another side of Shenzhen, I would recommend you to rent a Mobike to ride along Shekou District, where a V&A museum is opening up, and it just costs you a yuan.
What are your future plans?
I am planning to find a bigger workplace to have an in-house showroom now. We need more space to accommodate more stuff. And I think it would be amazing to exhibit what I archived some day.
Archiché’s newest collection is on view November 10-12 at Shenzhen Nanshan Jinhui Mansion, 2/F, A2019 @ MST; November 30-December 2 at Shenzhen Fashion Source Exhibition, Shenzhen Exhibition Center, 5/F, Narcissus Hall.