ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
One question I get asked most “Is how do I become a fashion designer?” My answer is always “Don’t!” Few people really know what it takes to become a fashion designer. Real designers don’t ask, they do, it’s in their blood from birth. Why else would you put yourself through years of torture and ridicule, just to see your garment showcased on a body. Fashion is a high turnover consumer product, which is back dropped with trends, taste makers, and celebrity–I guess that is what makes fashion so fabulous and exciting. With Muse Closet, I want to pull that curtain back a little.
After my design school debacle, I headed to Japan and licked my wounds for a few months, then I came back and headed to film school. Completely frustrated with my film, a classmate asked if I could use my fashion skill to report Vancouver Fashion Week. I accepted begrudgingly, as I was up to my neck in production work, and not looking to do anything with fashion. I had one condition: I didn’t want to be on camera. I was going to research the designers, and write questions for the hosts, and maybe some styling. Well, nope on all three. I did format the questions and research, but I ended up doing most of the on camera hosting duties, because their male host didn’t work out. What a stroke of luck. I found my place in fashion, and I realized why I didn’t go all the way with my fashion degree.
I explain the latter because, while doing those interviews, during Vancouver Fashion Week, I meet one of the most intriguing designers, Arthur Lee. When I started the Muse Closet, five months ago, I chased Arthur for an interview from the start. It’s always hard to pin down a designer whose between Hong Kong and Vancouver. By chance, who was on my flight to New York Fashion Week this year? Arthur–interview booked. We finally sat down a few weeks ago, so he could tell me about his designs, philosophy, and artistic journey. This baritone speaking man captivated me with his voice, designs, and story.
A full circle moment, as we started to speak. That Vancouver Fashion Week was both Arthur, and my destiny calling. He started his design business that year to prove to his family that he was serious, and I started my fashion commentary career.
I 5, New Mexico, right turn, “HOPE.” These are the words that brought Arthur full circle in his life. After years of turbulence
to find his creative outlet, Arthur saw this sign of hope while driving through the New Mexico desert. At a cross-road in life, one must listen to find their passion, and thus he did. Arthur’s journey is being documented in a up-coming documentary about his life and company creation. I felt privileged to walk into his world.
It all begins with a simple idea. Arthur has taken his graphic T-shirt line and turned it into a cult classic for Asian Bear culture, while captivating mainstream audiences. The former baker has created a recipe for success. Establishing his line, Ursus, in 2008, Arthur has not stopped creating. He partnered with charitable organization, Red Cross, after the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami. The original T-shirts sold out. Next up, a younger, colourful, and cartoonish line named Beavy. Arthur believes that there is always “Light just ahead.” His giving nature is what makes his line interesting and creative.
The concept to his business is KIS: “Keep it simple.” The clothes are not cumbersome, and comfy to wear. Therefore, business is something to grow with time, energy, and passion. These two concepts of travel and simplicity is what keeps Arthur moving. While creating the line he felt like a bear, always moving and traveling. Fashion to him is like this bear, never staying in one place, one mood, one style. I guess that is why it took me so long to track down this jet-setting designer. No wonder I found him at the airport.
What makes Arthur so interesting, to me, is his background into the world of design. I’ve always felt that real fashion designers jump out of the womb, as some do, but I realize that some take the long way. The long way is not always a bad thing. After suffering through a dot-com bust, an apocalyptic 9/11, and a manufacturing swindle– Arthur persevered. With his fashion roots in New York, Arthur moved back to Hong Kong to manufacture his line. He may have been born in Hong Kong, but Vancouver represents a part of his soul; Hong Kong’s fast pace lifestyle was a little much for this boomerang resident, but with time, his former city and friends have enveloped him.
Interview: Arthur and I
What I took away from my interview with Arthur was that “Without the past, you can not be what you are today.” Becoming a fashion designer takes guts, as it is one of the hardest and most competitive businesses. To find a mode of expression that encompasses our passion is not easy, therefore to discover yourself first is key. What I love about fashion is that it is always moving, developing, and changing. All while building on the past. When I was much younger I was told by a model scout that I needed to live more, after taking to Arthur I understand that statement to be true. What made Arthur’s line so memorable to me during Vancouver Fashion Week was the story. I still remember his words, “I want to express myself.” This is what clothes help us all do everyday, so take some time to discover yourself.
I added this clip because, I think this is what you need to say when passion comes knocking at your door!