Interview with a stylist Cheryl Leung
Cheryl Leung is a stylist and image director for stills and motions for Hong Kong and China’s luxury, high street, and apparel markets. Now, she is based in Tokyo and continues her work in innovation and imaging for a tech company. Her first career was at POP magazine in London in 2003. She helped her boss Katie Grand’s fashion shoots on publications that include Vogue Italy, Harper’s Bazzar USA, V Man, 10 magazine, and The Face, and on advertising with Guerlain and Nike Basketball Milan, and Madonna’s concert at London Hyde Park for Live 8.
Then, she relocated to China from London to broaden her expertise in image – art direction, styling, filming and creating content on digital platforms. She worked with Condé Nast China, CHANEL Beauté, Net-a-Porter, L’Oréal Paris, Adidas, and Athlete for Global campaigns in Nike, among others. We sat to ask questions about her career, imaging, and brands.
Krayon: We have worked in London in the Marketing department for a short period. One day, you told me that you wanted to become a stylist, not work in Marketing. I remember you went into the UK publishing industry, which is the opposite of Marketing for a luxury brand. And later, you were involved in many global projects. How did you build your career?
Cheryl: I remember pursuing something I thought I was equally good at and interested in. Marketing was a stepping stone into the fashion industry in London. It was a leap of faith as styling road maps were not as technical to get a degree and follow up with a specific plan. I just knew I was inspired by creatives’ portfolios books called in the Marketing dept. And I wanted to find out and learn more. Gradually building my network, experience and contacts with stylists, editors and magazines I would like to work with. There were chapters in my life defined by taking leaps and country relocation, which benefited in global exposure and exchanging an international finesse and skill set you could transport to each client, editorial, design, storytelling, and company, across several continents.
Krayon: You have been around to create images for luxury, high street, and apparel markets in different countries. I am sure you noticed how slightly different Asian and Europeans view fashion. How did you find its subtlety and transform it into image creation?
Cheryl: I think there is more awareness of cross-cultural collaborations and maintaining a distinct identity for each region. If that culture or identity hasn’t been defined in modern terms, it’s worth experimenting with and juxtaposing for innovation and creativity. I remember the growing expansion in China, and big publishing houses opened international titles in APAC. I felt some fashion shoots and magazine covers carried those stereotypes in imaging and styling, and some creative teams didn’t get the current stance. So, I worked to strip it back and discover who the modern muse was. Every client and experience taught me to use that opportunity each time for challenged commissions. There is room for diversity and inclusion in the present day. I think identities speaking out is a positive thing and speaks more to your local customer, ‘Be local think Global’, without duplicating.
Krayon: We have been contacted by European manufacturing companies that produce clothes and accessories for global luxury brands, and they are launching their lines. They are proud of their high skills, qualities, and tradition but aspire to create more vital images. If you were an image consultant for those new brands, how do you take the essence of those brands and create images?
Cheryl: I would be apparent in identifying who your customer is. And work backwards in creating a product that will attract your demographic. Having those solid qualities and the effect already able to speak for itself is halfway there. The casting of muse and icons that represent the clothes can deliver the lifestyle, representation, and identity message. If it is luxury, you would insist on high standards, be wary of what similar luxury competitors are doing, and see if you are continuously raising that bar. For an accessible brand in terms of qualities, price point, and scale, then branding some commercial appeal will deliver the right essence. The storytelling part, the casting of the model/ambassador, is all-important and buying in an aligned creative team in photography, styling, art direction, hair, and make-up, and not ignoring the point of view of the experts.
Our talk continues to part 2.
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