Friday, March 22, 2013

BARNEY CHENG: Exclusive Interview

By Eva Fydrych

"Luxury is a state of mind."

Amber Xu for Barney Cheng (Photo courtesy of the designer)

Barney Cheng is a Hong Kong-based fashion designer, well-known for his luxurious evening gowns and extravagant yet simple style.

Barney studied Textile and Design at the Royal College of Art in London and Fashion Illustration and History of European Costume at the Parson’s School of Design in Paris, before graduating from The University of Waterloo, Canada with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts Studio Option.

Since starting his design studio Yenrabi Ltd. in 1993, Barney has been awarded numerous prestigious titles, including a place in Forbes China’s 2010 list of the ‘Top 25 Influential Chinese in Global Fashion’. His flawlessly tailored and executed designs brought him fame and recognition not only in Asia, but also around the world.

We had a pleasure to find out more about Barney Cheng during Asian Couture Evening 2012, a glamorous event which took place in Singapore last November. Enjoy our exclusive interview with one of the top Asian designers!

Barney Cheng

Occupation: Fashion Designer
City: Hong Kong, China

Designer Barney Cheng (Photo courtesy of Barney Cheng)

FASHION STUDIO: How did you get interested in fashion?

BARNEY: I’ve always loved anything colourful and spangly. So I naturally loved watching all my relatives at family gatherings dressed up to the nines, playing mahjong with huge rocks on their fingers, each trying to outshine the next. I also love the fact that girls are on their best behaviour when they are all dressed up... Best foot forward you could say.

FASHION STUDIO: What inspires you? Where do you find ideas for your designs?

BARNEY: My clients inspire me, I love to be a fly on the wall, listening to their conversations about planning fabulous dream trips here, there and everywhere... What other profession can I be in where my creations would be able to enter venerated halls such as the Buckingham Palace, the Royal Court of Denmark or the fabled breakfast room of the White House? Or having your creation in museums, exhibited at the Kennedy Centre, paraded on rodeo drive, stored inside the Warner Studio's costume library or on the fabulous red carpets of Cannes, Academy Awards and many other red carpets in Asia. I love my clientele, the obvious stella ones and the totally invisible power ladies even more so.

Amber Xu on the streets of Beijing during photoshoot for Barney Cheng

FASHION STUDIO: How travelling influences your work? 

BARNEY: Travel definitely has an impact on my designs - I loved going to all those amazing Unesco Heritage sites for a charity project. I also love when clients whisk me away with them to try out their new jet or new villa in far flung and exotic places. I guess that is the perks of being a couturier, the kind of people you meet coming through your doors are truly out of this world, letting me dream and create fabulous designs that work perfectly for their lifestyle - mind you, these are real clothes for real women who know the best and demand the best, I try not to do fashion show only pieces.

FASHION STUDIO: What is your personal definition of fashion?

BARNEY: I would define fashion as a necessary extension of your personality: at times whimsical, at times serious but always reliable, exuding confidence and sublimely attractive.

Photo courtesy of Barney Cheng (Click to enlarge)

FASHION STUDIO: What has been your biggest challenge so far?

BARNEY: Finding a right partner to take the brand to the next level - I always call myself the ‘glorified tailor’- I see nothing wrong with that. Do you know how difficult it is to find a pattern drafter that can cut a mean sleeve? Or drape suggestively without baring too much skin? I love my workshop, most of them have been with me for the last 18 years, and that says something about our little get-up. A sympathetic partner in crime would be most welcomed to make this Asian couturier shine among the stars.

FASHION STUDIO: And the biggest achievement?

BARNEY: I dunno. I just take it a day at a time, I guess being in business without a proper business partner for the last 19 years can be termed an achievement?

FASHION STUDIO: What is your personal recipe for success?

BARNEY: I love quality and when you design one off items for clients who have the world at their feet, you better know what you are doing or they will not put their confidence in you.

Photo courtesy of Barney Cheng (Click to enlarge)

FASHION STUDIO: What makes your style unique and different from other designers? How would you define your style?

BARNEY: I like to think that my approach which I call couture-a-porter is at once very Hong Kong and Asian in a way, everyone wants the biggest bang for their buck and I believe Hong Kong offers that quite well. Also my style of ‘extravagant simplicity’ works well for the modern lady’s lifestyle.

FASHION STUDIO: How would you describe fashion industry in Hong Kong? How does it compare to other countries in Asia?

BARNEY: I think the exorbitant rents in HK are not doing us, Hong Kong based designers, any favours. So I’ve been lucky that I was able to buy my premises and then expand into the lower floor when it became available. I would hate to have to deal with rental hikes every two years!

Photo courtesy of Barney Cheng (Click to enlarge)

FASHION STUDIO: What is your life philosophy?

BARNEY: My mantra used to be ‘work hard, play hard’ but now it’s more about appreciating the fruits of my labour and using my God-given talent to help the less fortunate.

FASHION STUDIO: Where do you see yourself in five years time?

BARNEY: I’ll still be a ‘glorified tailor’ albeit with brand new redecorated digs, a proper management team that shares my philosophy, a flourishing jewellery design business as well, create a fragrance or two and devoting more time to charitable causes.

FASHION STUDIO: Thank you for your time and good luck with all your future plans!

Asian Couture Evening 2012

Asian Couture Evening 2012, Singapore (Photo courtesy of Fide Fashion Weeks)

Asian Couture Evening 2012, Singapore (Photo courtesy of Fide Fashion Weeks)

Asian Couture Evening 2012, Singapore (Photo courtesy of Fide Fashion Weeks)

Asian Couture Evening 2012, Singapore (Photo courtesy of Fide Fashion Weeks)


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