Christine Lau is exactly what you would not expect from a raising star of the Chinese fashion heaven: she is quiet, down-to-earth, funny, playful and madly in love with her recently-married husband.
We met at Chictopia HQ in Jianwai SOHO, she was sporting a relaxed and confident smile and a cocky piece from her ss2014 collection – she told me she hasn’t been buying clothes from other designers for years now, and I don’t see why on Earth she should.
Leading one of the most interesting and promising funny-chic labels in China, she is incredibly approachable and friendly, and I had the feeling she was enjoying our chat at least as much as I did.
What is Chictopia to you?
Chictopia is a very important asset for me, it feels me with a deep sense of success and happiness. It started as a way to express myself, and it still is: I’m a playful girl with self-confidence, and the pieces I design aim at bringing out the cockyness that is in every individual. I am inspired by daily simple happenings – I’m a very good observer and I find the world around me beautiful. It’s not too difficult then to design beautiful pieces!
Which kind of child were you?
I have always been very playful, and at the same time quiet, reserved, not very loud. But I think my main characteristic back then – and to some extent still today – was the curiosity: I used to climb walls of the mansion close to my school to visit its hidden garden. I was attracted by everything inaccessible, secretive, mysterious.
You were trained as a textile designer at London’s Central Saint Martins. When you moved out from China and found yourself in the UK how did you feel?
I felt completely free for the very first time in my life: I found a completely different environment than what I thought. Studying in China is very stressful and you are not encouraged to develop independent thinking, while in London my tutors were very open minded and, one workshop after another one, a new me was born: an adult with clear ideas about her future and a more educated passion for fashion. I think also the fact that I was in London played a big role: the city is at the same time traditional, arty and very edgy. I found myself in a very inspiring place with people from all over the world. It’s a self-discovery process that I think every person should experience and I hope it will be easier and easier for Chinese students to do so.
How was Chictopia born?
After graduating, I worked as a freelance textile designer in London for a while. It was fun, but I still wanted to improve my technique. This is why I came back to China to learn more about it. After one year I felt confident enough, or reckless, to launch my own label. For the first two years it was super tough – I had to do everything by myself: design, marketing, sales. Even in the most nerve-wracking days I felt I would eventually make it, and this gave me the strength to keep going.
How is the Chictopia adventure going today?
Today it’s definitely easier: I have a fantastic team of 20 trust-worty people – her younger siblings, as Christine says – medias really support independent designers and Chinese customers are more and more curious about new and unconventional products and have higher and higher spending power. Moreover, the opening of concept stores which promote up-and-coming domestic designers really gave sales a big boost.
Are you interested in selling your pieces abroad?
Of course I’m interested, but I feel Chictopia is not ready yet. It’s a very young label, it needs to grow and grow wiser before it goes abroad. At the moment I’m still focusing on the domestic market, aiming at having more and more shops selling my pieces. Once we have a very wide selling platform and our brand is stable, then we’ll be ready to go – I don’t see the point in rushing things.
What’s your big dream?
I’m actually not a dreamer, and I’m not particularly ambitious. I would love just to keep Chictopia as successful as it is now. If I have a dream, it’s about the health of my family members and the love to my husband – these are my priorities.
And, out of curiosity, what’s the secret of Chictopia being so incredibly media-friendly? [Christine has a Weibo account with around 200,000 followers who happily like everything she posts][She laughs like I just made the funniest joke] Actually, I think the secret has something to do with the design – you need to do something unique if you want to stand out and catch the attention. In my case, I think Chictopia’s prints are memorable, they speak out. And my lovely followers are there, listening to them.
Christine let me use her adorable pieces for a photo shooting, during which my dear friend Mario Duyuchen took care of the creative direction and street style photographers P1 contributed with their cameras and skills. It was lots of fun, and I loved wearing colourful and funny pieces from her collections.
Christine is the proven evidence that people working in the fashion industry don’t need to be aggressive and out of reach to be successful. And, if I may add, that a beautifully-cocky summer dress with a funny print can make a statement – actually, a glamorous one. I thought Christine deserves a Chiara’s Pick for her talent and passion. Do you agree with me?
Christine Lau, founder del brand funny-chic Chictopia, e’ quanto di più lontano ci si possa immaginare dalla designer vip. E’ simpatica, alla mano, con i piedi per terra, e mette al primo posto nella sua vita l’amore per il ragazzo che ha appena sposato. I suoi abiti sono sbarazzini, divertenti e a tratti impertinenti, ed e’ stato un piacere per me indossarli durante il photo shooting che ha visto la collaborazione con i fotografi streetstyle P1.
For the chat with Christine Lau at Chictopia HQ I was delighted to wear:
dress 裙子: Sandro
sunglasses 太阳镜: Dior
Yellow notebook 黄色笔记本: Moleskine
Dotted pen 星点笔: Campo Marzio
For the photo shooting, I was delighted to wear Chictopia creations.
From my own wardrobe, I used:
Pumps 平跟鞋: Stuart Weitzman
Wedges 坡跟鞋: Zara
Sandals 凉鞋: Fausto Santini
Pearl necklaces 珍珠项链: vintage
Silver bracelet 银色手镯: Nanis
Shimmering bracelets 亮色手镯: Accessorize
Silver ring 银色戒指: Furla
Gold ring with the yellow stone 镶石金色戒指: designed for me by Gianni Martinis 由设计师Gianni Martinis独家为本博设计
Pink earrings 粉色耳饰: hand-made in India. Bought at Geco in Rome 印度手工制作 。购于罗马Geco
Gold bracelets 金色手镯: vintage
Sunglasses 太阳镜: vintage
Lipstick 唇膏: Chanel Rouge Coco #16 Taffetas Rose
All the pictures at Chictopia HQ were taken with my white Sony NEX-5T.
访谈照片皆由时尚街拍P1摄影师拍摄。[map id=”28″] [map id=”88″]
Chinese version of the interview by Jasmine Wang.