Published in the South China Morning Post, 23 August 2009
Some facts of life, such as work and family obligation, may tie down the freest of spirits. But Paris-based accessory designer Cherry Chau has managed to live out her ideals of freedom. Over the past three decades, the Hong Kong-born woman has carved out a career she likens to “playing” and lived in five cities that she adores.
Cherry Chau, the brand, is an international success, its designs on display at renowned department stores such as Galeries Lafayette in Paris, Selfridges in London and Seibu in Hong Kong. Chau, the woman, has since the age of 17 trotted the globe, driven by love and a search for the finer things in life.
After finishing form five at St Stephen’s College in Stanley, Chau went to Lausanne to read French literature, partly because a “very good-looking” French teacher in Hong Kong had sparked her passion for the language. After that she moved to London to study fashion – because she “loves fabrics”.
After London, she came back to Hong Kong and became a fashion buyer. But it wasn’t long before she was off again – to Geneva, with a Swiss boyfriend.
“Geneva was so much fun. Every day I would go to a gallery to make pottery or ski on the mountain,” Chau recalls.
Her first major career break came when she was back in Hong Kong a married woman with a child. One day, she stumbled upon an antique shop on Hollywood Road, the owner of which was impressed by a necklace she was wearing.
“I told her I made it myself, and she asked me to send her pictures of my designs. So I did,” Chau says. “Later when I revisited the shop, I nearly died! She had a whole bunch of designs that looked exactly like mine.”
It might be a disheartening experience, but then from it Chau realised her creations could sell, so she pitched them to Lane Crawford, which was to be the launch of her design career. It was around this time that Chau met her second husband, a Frenchman, and they moved to Paris in 1997.
Having lived in the French capital for 12 years, Chau still enjoys the Parisian joie de vivre.
“The joy of living is very important here. And every time I return from a trip, I still discover new things in Paris.”
But nothing can beat Hong Kong when it comes to efficiency, she says. “In Paris, when you want to get things done, people say, ‘Er, maybe tomorrow, or the day after.’ But in Hong Kong, things work. It’s always my hometown, and an international city. I go there several times a years for work and to see my son.”
I’m a free spirit. Not being confined to one place is very important to me.
Such frequent travelling also suits Chau’s “nomadic” style. “I’m a free spirit. Not being confined to one place is very important to me.” So can she be committed to one place? “For a long time? Yes. Forever? No!”