Roger Thyvane Ouk | Gentlemen Style Series

Text by Kadri Karolin Kõuts | Features Editor
Photos by Sybil Kot | Editor-in-Chief


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Maison Martin Margiela double breasted jacket, Balenciaga pocket square, tailored shirt: Tailored shirt, Void cufflinks, Liverano braces, Eric Raisina Brooch

It was unsure whether it’s the natural charm of his Cambodian descent or the whooping orange-colored suspenders, but Roger Thyvane Ouk brings a certain feeling of warmth into the otherwise very sleek and somber Wow Suite on the 37th floor of W Hong Kong. While our team admires the panoramic view to the harbor, Roger carefully adds a finishing accessory or two to his outfit, occasionally seeking for a hint of approval from his beautiful wife and business partner – Jade. What is certain, though, is the incredible dynamic between the multi-talented couple behind Thyvane, a menswear brand dedicated to ties and bow ties that salute diverse cultures and personal style.

After many years of practicing law in Melbourne, the first-generation Australian decided to follow his lifelong passion and swap jurisdiction for fashion design. Although Roger has now distanced himself from the courtrooms, he continues to ponder with the idea of authority and conflict by transcending narratives of the past to a more contemporary shape and form. Having designed a collection called “Promise & Power”, Roger nonchalantly refers to Terracotta warriors of the Qin dynasty, the Thirty Years’ War and the ever-so peculiar dressing habits of Louis XVI when talking about the rather hostile evolution of the tie.

With an intention to create a dialogue between the product and the customer, Thyvane explores a broader concept in fashion rather than just designing a traditional line of accessories. Roger and Jade Ouk are eager to work across disciplines and pursue collaborations with architects, artists and creative minds alike to push the boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not.

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Tailored jacket, Henry Bucks pocket square, Calvin Klein T shirt and H&M shorts.

What is the essence of fashion for you?

Fashion in a way elevates me to another plane. I think it has the ability to move people emotionally, and psychologically, to another level. There is truth and fiction in fashion and you have the ability to control that. It interests me what other people choose to wear and why, the meaning behind that. And it’s because I’m more of a visual person.

Where do you get your inspiration?

When I dress up, I’m inspired by other people a lot of the time. And then there’s an element of wanting to bring something unique and personal to the outfit. What I wear and what I design is sometimes inspired by different themes. What is consistent is that I draw a lot from the composition put together by balance and beauty that Mother Nature is able to strive.

Do you follow any fashion blogs?

I follow The Wanderlister, The Sartorialist, Facehunter, GQ Style. I’m not there to look for inspiration, but just to see what the present trend is. They give you a good sense of what you could wear to fit in. I’m drawn towards historical context more than individuals. I may want to go back into the 17th or 19th century costume and see what people are wearing. People that I really admire are those that I don’t know – the unknown – who are able to carry something with such flare and character and poise, and who seem to be dressing more for themselves than for anyone else.

Do you hunt for brands?

There are certain brands, which are renowned for making particular items very well. The Italian suspenders I wear – the quality of that product exceeds a lot of others that I’ve worn in the past. So there are times when people are seeking brands because they begin to understand the craftsmanship behind it. But there are times when quality doesn’t play a role and it’s just the brand itself. Personally I would never shop based on the brand.

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Roger06Roger07Tailored suit,  PYE shirt, Louis Vuitton glasses, vintage pocket square Pocket square, Henry Bucks cufflinks and Custom-made Shoes.

What makes a woman look good?

Putting clothes aside, the first thing is confidence and that doesn’t necessarily mean having to be loud or flamboyant, or wearing the latest trends, but I sense that the person is very comfortable in their skin. That goes for both men and women I think. It’s the attitude that you bring to a room because that can have a greater impact than what you actually wear. But assuming you’re walking into the room with that, what will set you apart… I’m just thinking back on the iconic women Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren and Jackie Onassis. What they bring into the room is elegance in style. Timeless beauty. So what makes a woman look good…The ability to wear something with poise.

 Do you like the fashion scene in Hong Kong?

I think for men, there’s real refinement and conservatism. It seems that a lot of men do pay attention to detail and follow trends quite rigorously. There isn’t yet however that avant-garde, adventurous culture that I’ve found in other places. But Hong Kong men are increasingly taking more risks particularly in the area of accessories, which is really exciting. People tend to be very neat here, in terms of what they wear within the business and working community. It’s clean and sharp, but there is that convergence towards the mainstream.

 Tell us about the transition from being a full-time lawyer to becoming a designer du jour.

I’ve always had a fascination with fashion. When I was in the university, studying law, I participated in a mock board and I had to look for a tie to wear for these moot proceedings. I’d been preparing a number of months for this event in a real court, but it wasn’t a real trial. And I couldn’t find any ties that suited my personality or which spoke to me, or reflected the historic cultural context, which I was from. So making a tie for that event kick started everything.

I’ve always loved fabrics and things of texture. After that, I began looking for materials that I thought reflected me and that other people would appreciate. A lot of people were asking for the tie, they wanted a copy. I’ve always designed outside of my work career. There’s a strong creative side to my personality and it feels really good and energetic and positive when I create. I love the law; I love what it stands for. At the same time, it’s very challenging. It gives you a real discipline how to tackle particular arguments. It brings out thinking to my fashions in terms of wanting to really analyze why I’m doing something and the purpose behind it. On the other hand, fashion influences the law in a way that people are taking a different approach to things. In some respects, it makes me more open-minded.

Roger10Roger11 Rex jacket, Tailored pocket square, Zara Shir, Claude Maus Jeans, Magnani shoes, vintage scarf, David Neil Ring, Hollywood Vintage bracelets.

What does Thyvane stand for?

The core of the brand is about reflecting, about a dialogue. It’s about understanding the person that is beyond what they are wearing. Thyvane’s item strikes a conversation or an enquiry, so it can be anything. We started with neckties because they’re quite conventional but also common items for men to wear. It comes from a specific historical context and we’re able to imbue that with a different meaning depending on the type of fabric or the design. That’s what is really fascinating and interesting.

Tell us more about the design process.

 It’s a combination. Sometimes there’s an idea that I have in mind and I’m inspired by nature or animals or particular architectural forms. Then I create something that’s influenced by that. Which means writing it down, drawing an image, finding the appropriate colors and then sourcing fabric to match, thinking about the silhouette that would reflect the idea. Other times the cloths or fabrics themselves inspire me. They move me to want to do something with them. With some of our products, we look for the best method of creating it. Our latest collection is handmade in Australia. For other products, sometimes a machine-made one, you’re able to achieve the consistency you wouldn’t get with a handmade product. And we go down that line. In the end of the day, we’re looking to deliver the best product.

What does “Promise & Power” represent?

 When I moved to Hong Kong 2.5 years ago, I noticed that a lot of people had come to the city from all corners of the world and they were drawn to the allure of a promise of wealth, of opportunity. Whatever it is they thought that Hong Kong could help them deliver. And that’s the promise. The power aspect of it is that ties have always been associated with military adornment and royalty. So the collection sort of explores people’s desires in fashion, not necessarily ties, and this notion from the commercials and advertisements that promises them this lifestyle, which has elements of power.

I’m very excited about this collection. This is an instance where I was actually inspired by the fabric itself. We found snakeskin that feels like tissue paper. We’re also using lace, which is just amazing. Men should be able to wear lace too, so I came up with a lace tie for men. We had to go through a number of prototypes because it’s challenging to make a bow tie from such a delicate material. It has lining and interlining and requires a special technique. When we go back in history, lace ties were the like the pinnacle of the tie. All the royal monarchs wore lace cravats. Back then; people had a hundred ways how to tie it, now we only have 3 or 4 ways. It’s interesting, if you go way back, the time men were giving themselves in terms of dedicating to their looks and the types of things they were wearing, you don’t see it these days. Outfits used to have a lot of detail, a lot of embroidery. Now it’s mostly associated with women. When does it shift along the line?

 There have been so many advances in technology in fabrics, in cut and design, but ties have remained the same. I find it really fascinating. It’s interesting to see people’s reactions. There have always been checks, particular colors or paisley. What’s going to be the reaction if they’re not that? What I’m saying by beginning with ties and bow ties is look, I am part of the system, I studied law, I have a tertiary education, but at the same time I’m not part of the system. It’s not a complete rejection, but I want to reflect more of what I call is modern and have that presented. Admitting to a system is not reflecting who I am. I want to recognize the alternative backgrounds, so it’s becomes a dialogue. There’s more to you than meets the eye. And I think that’s really nice in fashion, when people begin to recognize more than just the way it looks. I’d like to evoke something more than just a casual conversation. So you’ve chosen to wear that. Why? Can you tell more about it?

 

Plans for the future?

We have an online store where you can purchase directly. We’ll release the new collection shortly as well. In addition to stocking at Kapok, we’re hoping to give our potential customers the opportunity to feel and see the products by stocking at other places as well. Ultimately, it would be nice to open our own store, a retail space, so we can meet our customers directly. I may also explore doing limited runs of items such as shirts and jackets. It’s all about being able to have a lot fun while creating something.

Do you have any final tips for our male readers?

I have a lot of men come up to me and say, ‘I’d really like to wear that but I just don’t know whether I could’. So what I’m getting from them is that there’s this underlying urge to want to do something, but something is holding them back, or restricting them from doing it. I tell them to just go ahead and do it! They’re worried about what people would think, they’re not sure how to style it… The first step – just do it and see how it feels.

A lot of men also say that they don’t know how to tie a bow tie. This is one of the most exciting things about this accessory – the fact that you go home with a product and you’ll learn how to do something. There aren’t many products that give you that sense of satisfaction. I remember when I first tied a bow tie and it felt great! The energy that you spend dedicating yourself to doing something makes the product that much more interesting and valuable. Another great thing about bow ties is that you don’t necessarily need to tie it up. There’s a certain relaxed look of having them untied.

 

 

 

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Beijing 798: A Visual Diary

798 has changed so much since my last visit – with souvenir shops, cafes, design firms and fashion boutiques popping up here and there, commercial activities has definitely change the face of China’s most important art zone. I stayed in Beijing briefly this summer, spent two days wandering around the area and here’s a few things to share.

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The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) is a non-profit art center located at the heart of the 798 Art District, it was founded by collectors Guy and Myriam Ullens. Since it’s establishment in 2007, the centre has organized numerous critically-acclaimed exhibition by Chinese contemporary artists. The exhibition is currently showing a retrospective for Chinese painter Wang Xingwei.

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UCCA also publish a series of insightful art books about contemporary Chinese art. There are a few really interesting introductory volumes – Breaking Forecast (中坚) - 8 Key Figures of China’s New Generation Artists. and China Talks (对话中国) – Interview with 32 Contemporary Artists by Jerome Sans. The UCCA Store also carries a selection of art, architecture, design and fashion magazines. And don’t forget to check out the UCCA Design Store next door.

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Tang Contemporary Art often presents installation projects by Chinese artists. They were showing Wu Daxin’s exhibition De Composure – an impressive installation piece of seven buildings representing the central axis dividing the city of Beijing. Many reference of religions can be seen in the pieces, including a blurred portrait of something that resembles a buddha, and a Noah’s Ark-like installation titled “White Vessel“. Read more about the exhibition here.

There are some other galleries and art spaces that you absolutely cannot miss: Long March SpaceBoers-Li Gallery, Pace GalleryBeijing Commune, and Space Station Art. Seriously, don’t miss out.

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I arrive just in time to see the Chanel’s touring exhibition The Little Black Jacket in Beijing. You can experience the exhibition on their official website. There’re a lot of debates on whether luxury brands has killed the artistic scene in 798. But having worked in a gallery myself, I consider the collaboration with luxury brands a creative way of revenue generation which would eventually be re-invested into nurturing the development of art and artists, if managed properly. My friend and fellow blogger Daniel Kong did an interesting piece about that.

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It was a nice surprise to literally “bump” into friend and artist Lai Sio Kit‘s solo exhibition at Art For All Society, an art organization devoted to promote art works by artists from Macau. 

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On my quest for art I also stopped by the famous Fei Space – a concept store dedicated to introducing international designer fashion, home decor and furnitures to the China market. The store even has its little curated furniture display room which resembles the interior of a typical 1960s Chinese home. Since September 2011, Fei Space became the first retail store in Mainland China to carry Topshop and Topman products. Check out their website for more.

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And I wasn’t walking around in high heels.

Featured business: ODD ONE OUT

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Print shop is something quite common in the Western world, but it took me some serious research to locate one in Hong Kong. Tucked away in the tranquil terrace of Sau Wa Fong in Wan Chai, Odd One Out, a business combining the concepts of a print shop, a cafe and an art boutique, has offers something quite unique to offer to the city’s art lovers. Founded by ex-printmakers and passionate print collector Phemie Cheng in early 2013, the business has successfully matched the demand from existing print buyers and developed its new clientele in Hong Kong.

Bridging the massive gap between expensive original art pieces and movie posters, limited edition prints are something quite exquisite to own but still easy on the wallet. Odd One Out has a fine selection of prints by international artists, prices range between HKD600 to HKD 3,500. The owner of Odd One Out organizes themed exhibition with artists from all over the world, including the very recent 3D exhibition curated by UK based designer/illustrator Stephen Chan. Apart from limited edition prints, Odd One Out also offers a selection of covetable ceramics by Melody Rose and Mellow Ware and some very witty greeting cards

If you are looking to purchase a print, make sure to ask Phemie or the friendly staff there for framing options. And… these are our top picks.

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Prints by Kyoko Imazu. Clockwise from top left. Lidth’s Jay, Tia 1, Rachel, and Geese and Lotus.

Justin2Prints by Justin Santora. From left At The ReadyWhere We BeganFirst Waltz at the Servants’ Ball.

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Prints by Kat Libretto. From left Chrysler Building, NYCRockefeller Center, NYC, and Empire State Building, NYC.

ODD ONE OUT

ADDRESS
34 Sau Wau Fong, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
www.oddoneout.hk

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Photographs by the best mom in the universe (as requested by her)

Cos top and skirt, Zara sandals and clutch, H&M cuff.

I visited the Cos store on Queen’s Road many times since it was opened in Hong Kong, but my first purchase from them only took place at their current summer sale. Just because they don’t do any fancy sequined cocktail dress, I categorized them as “pricey-minimalistic-casual-wear”  and haven’t been motivated enough to buy anything. But I realized the thing about Cos designs is that every item has a understated chic element in it which makes them well-worth the price over time. I hope you are not getting dizzy from looking at my multi-faceted clutch and my printed skirt (Coz my mom totally did.) Speak soon!

Oh you beautiful HKers : ) Snapshot collection #1

Oh you beautiful HKers : ) Snapshot collection #1

*Making street photos is addictive, so I’ve decided to make it a regular section of my blog.
(Comes out every sunday evening.)


Oh I’m so happy with these lovely snapshots! Great job HKers : ) Keep on smiling!

Shooting dates: 27th-28th, November 2010
Location: Central (Hong Kong Photography Festival and deTour 2010)

Mr. Jiro Hirano and his art project for deTour 2010.
http://www.halrow.org

All photographs by The Style Voyager
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