While Chinese brand The World Is Your Oyster has yet to make the leap to London Fashion Week Men’s, it is firmly in their sites. “We want global recognition,” says Calvin Chan from the studio he shares with partner Joyce Kun. “We’d love to do a presentation in a Western city like London. We definitely want more exposure in the media and to audiences internationally.”
The brand, inspired by the Shakespearean phrase, was started in 2014 by Hong Kongese couple Calvin Chan and Joyce Kun. Chan studied at the Hong Kong Design University and Kun studied at the Polytechnic. They explain that while they both design - and have an equal working partnership - Chan focuses on the production, and Kun on the marketing and promotion of the brand. “We have different perspectives, so we realised we can make things more interesting if we combine out outlooks,” Chan explains. The partnership is certainly working: they create collections with intricate details and tailoring that seem casual and carefree.
Influenced by the counterculture of the ‘50s Beat generation, AW’18 featured slogan applique bombers ('Living in the past; Living in a dream’), wool twill coats in tartan with tailored storm vents, and neat, double pleat pants engineered with reverse seams. According to Yishu Wang, associate creative director at Qumin, a China-focused digital creative agency: “This is a brand created by young people for young people. They understand their audience because they are their audience.”
It is precisely why they are doing so well - last season they picked up nine global stockists from prestigious locals like Lane Crawford to Kawano in Tokyo as well as smaller boutiques in the US. “Asia is moving forward at an extraordinary pace,” Wang says. “There are new trends coming up every day. It's a great cultural background for creative ideas. Young and upcoming designers with fresh ideas from Asia is what is needed to push forward the global market, which has long been west-centred.”
Wang goes on to add that Hong Kong is a very a culturally and historically intriguing location, which due to its proximity to mainland China, is becoming a strong base for emerging designers. “It’s so diverse with influences from all over Asia, and even the world,” she says. “Such a background is great for instigating creative work. Of course, it also has great access to both international markets and China’s domestic market.”
“Young and upcoming designers from Asia with fresh ideas is what is needed to push forward the global market - which has long been west-centred”
For Kun, Hong Kong is more business focused, but she admits things are certainly improving. “It’s a fact that Hong Kong is transforming. We just had Fashion Asia and this had excellent forums and conferences.” However, Chan is quick to interject: “But actually, I think Shanghai is a better place for designers... It’s got a stronger community and everytime we come back from there we like the vibe is much better there.”
The brand has been showing at Shanghai Fashion Week since AW’18, and this year joined Alter Showroom- although they admit this is better for “international brands.” They are excited that “lots of people are talking about all the young brands in Shanghai,” but standing out among the explosion of designers is the issue - as with many emerging, dynamic markets. Wang advises that in order to be more distinctive, brands like The World Is Your Oyster need to invest in actively engaging their audience.
“A lot of young designers are focused on their designs and artistic expression,” she says. “But they tend to forget that a brand is more than just the designs. To make a brand means to reach your target audience with explicit and authentic brand messaging.” For now, the duo are happy to continue their strategy of storytelling - showing in Shanghai but keenly eyeing the world stage. “At the moment, Labelhood is a great way to show our collections to the media and buyers, as well as consumers, and China currently works well, but like we said, we want the global market.”