I blazed into the fashion industry 25 years ago after graduating from University. Although I studied Chinese Studies, in Canada, I always knew that I wanted to work in the fashion industry – it somehow called to me.
I knew I loved fashion because intrinsically and inherently, I knew beauty (that is also the reason why I devoted time to study something else in University). This was not something relating to trends, but it was a knowing in my body, of what harmony would look like. And thus, I wanted to make use of this sixth sense in my career. When I look at a design, there are two levels of beauty—that of the physical and that of a deeper, energetical level. I wanted to balance these two parts so that true beauty could be expressed.
Very quickly after joining the industry—first as a customer service representative, then as an assistant buyer for a high end brand in Canada, I came back to Hong Kong where I was born. Working as an editor for a fashion magazine, I was completely succumbed by the consciousness of this industry – which shocked me. Being beautiful is what this industry champions, but being beautiful is also what the industry is NOT.
I’m being more honest than harsh here, as I am a part of this industry and there is nothing I have not done, but I choose to be honest about all of it. The Devil Wears Prada is not fiction, it is a very blatant picture of our industry, and no one would question it. But what I could tell you first hand is that there were so many days and nights when anxiousness was wrecking my entire well-being. Being scared that my boss would fire me the next day if I did not perform to her expectation, or if I took too long to write my articles in Chinese, because I had to use an English-Chinese dictionary every time. But outwardly, you would see us dressed in brand names and investing our entire paycheck back to the industry through the consumption of luxury goods. The industry made sure that we felt special and that we were more superior than everyone else, because we lead the way in knowing what looks good. We were consumed in an industry which we could not afford.
Tolls of the Industry
And yet, the way we work and in a rhythm that is set by the industry, actually guaranteed that we never truly felt good. We would disregard our bodies and drive it to exhaustion as a whirlwind of push and rush with nervous tension. Realistically, we push to have excellent results, but my body was riddled with sickness constantly and that says a lot. I looked like a panda on most days, perhaps that is why we fool ourselves and make the dark smoky eyes fashionable in editorials, for that was how I looked on most days devotedly paired with ghostly pale skin.
3 years in the industry and it was already enough for me. Only because I started to listen to my body. I knew I came to the industry with a purpose, and that was to truly express beauty. If I did not feel beautiful, no amount of luxury clothing would make me feel more beautiful. My body was honest—true beauty was not about covering my insecurities in beautiful clothing nor heavy makeup to make me look more energised. I knew true beauty needed to come from inside me and how I tenderly cared for my body. I was prepared to start over and rebuild this foundation: if I were to do fashion, then do it truthfully.
And so when I was just building a name for myself to be recognised as an acclaimed young stylist, I quit and went to live on a farm–for finding myself is much more important than any man-made acclaim or award could ever give me. (To be cont’d).
Written exclusively for WELL, Magazine Asia by Adele Leung