Thu, May 11, 2006 - Page 13 News List

The allure of the new

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

Looking good comes naturally to one of Taiwan's leading young designers, Robyn Hung (洪英妮).

"When I was little we used to go on family trips and my mother used to look at us before we went out. She looked up and down and then often said, `Now go back and change.' It was a natural part of being the daughter of a successful designer."

Though she briefly toyed with the idea of opening an old people's home, Hung has been trying to find her own way in the world of fashion since then.

Petite, pretty, 30 years old and in charge of her own fashion house that has around 20 outlets in Taiwan and China, Hung would appear to have it all.

She was sent to Canada, for a foreign education at the age of 15 and learned to look after herself there. She named herself Robyn because the bird heralds spring and is a harbinger of good news.

"The idea of looking after old people folded and then at 16 I thought I could do anything. In Toronto I wanted to see the world rather than study. I kind of fell into fashion," Hung said.

She studied in Britain at the London College of Fashion. "I really hated it at first because they don't teach, you have to do what you do and then they judge you. It was completely different to everything I was used to."

After graduating, Hung worked with trend forecasting companies in Europe before returning to Taiwan and joining the family business. Her mother, Joyce Su (蘇錦), heads the Bernini fashion chain in Taiwan and China, and clearly has a strong influence on her daughter.

"She's an amazing woman. She's always improving herself and others," Hung said. "She didn't come from a wealthy family and worked really hard to get where she is today. Of course she has helped and inspired me."

On the other hand, "When you feel fortunate it's like a guilty feeling and you have to do more to give something back."

Hung is conscious of high family expectations and is obviously ambitious as a result. In addition to becoming a publisher and expanding her own label, as well as helping her mother's business, she opened Robyn Hung Boutique on Zhong-zheng Road in Tienmu last year to develop the idea of fashion as more than just clothes.

The boutique is inspired by the street markets of London and Paul Smith's store in Convent Garden, which displays only goods the designer likes. It's like a one-stop shop for dressing oneself and decorating your home. Style is everything and fashion becomes somewhat secondary.

Robyn Hung's boutique offers home furnishings, cosmetics, antiques, ceramics and accessories, as well as her latest collections. You can drop in for tea and a chat with a design consultant or get an eye for the latest trends.

Her most recent show was inspired by Africa, Morocco, Victor-iana and her upcoming wedding. The clothes had her signature style that mixes European ideas of fun and individuality with Taiwanese concepts of innovation and cuteness.

An example of this is a white T-shirt with epaulettes, which has a picture of a British bulldog wearing a crown, adorned with sequins and a necklace of pearls. It's a real fusion item of clothing that shows no fear of influences.

The concept of keai (可愛) is derived from Japan's cult of kewaii and finds expression in buying Hello Kitty merchandise and being devoted to the color pink.

According to Hung, zhuang keai (to make oneself cute) is a positive energy. It's good to look cute. It makes people happy. It's not like in the West, where it's just for kids. You don't need to look tough. Cute and successful is even more adorable."

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