Interviewing Eyewear Designer Percy Lau

By Jessica Laiter of Chinese Graffiti

Back during New York Fashion Week, I had the pleasure of hanging out with the adorable but profound eyewear designer Percy Lau. In an oversized neon green T-shirt, hot pink eyebrows, and high-set pony-tail, Lau gave me the full scoop about her unique outlook on the world, and how that influences her designs. My respect for her as a designer and a person grew throughout the interview. She is confident, open minded, and someone I am very fortunate to have met her. I hope you feel the same way too!

CG: When did you choose you wanted to launch an accessories collection? Why did you choose eyewear?
PL: In the very beginning I studied the sciences, like math, chemistry, and physics. And then my mom really wanted me to study this in University, but I said no, and as an action against her I chose fashion. When I was in high school, it was just a fun thing to do, I didn’t expect it to become my career. After I got a foundation at Central Saint Martins, my tutor changed my life actually. He told me I was really good at jewelry design. I have my own knowledge, my own language about accessories. So I changed my studies to jewelry design. Why I chose eyewear is even funnier. For my collection in my final year, I did something about eyes. It’s not specifically for eyewear. The collection is called, Seeing Is Believing- it’s one of my famous collections-it’s a showpiece. I used that collection to participate in a very important competition in Italia, which I won!
My very good friend and mentor, shoe designer Kei Kagami, the design director of YKK, told me that ‘I should start my own eyewear label;in this market it’s not very normal to have such a special eyewear design. Maybe the market would be a bit niche but you would have your place.’ I thought, why not? I got 10,000 euro as my prize from the competition, so I started my brand three years ago. During those three years, I learned a lot, not about design but about marketing and business, I quite enjoyed that.

CG: What would you say inspired your collection this season?
PL: This season was inspired by some people, some weirdo people. Sometimes we dress up like normal people, but we think in different ways. We don’t feel good sometimes, like me, I have a strange feeling and new ideas, but normal people don’t understand. I realize that this is something like Dadaism. Dadaism is a kind of art, which is so different from normal art. We’re not against anything, just telling people we have our own language and own prescription on aesthetics. This is how we got inspired. We are just like children, so new to this world.

CG: Was there an apprenticeship that effected how you look at this industry?
PL: I’m sorry to tell you that I did not have too many internships before getting into this business. During my studies at CSM, I focused on hand making and designing my own things. While studying, I had an online Etsy store, selling hand made jewelry. During the summer, other students had internships with other leading designers, but I just didn’t want to follow the rules of others. However, I didn’t learn any new lessons during that time. I think I would be much better off if I had interned at one or two other brands. This would have been better for me, but I lost this chance.

CG: Can you describe a specific time when you took a huge risk? What were the results?
PL: I learned a lesson from last season. Every time, since I was in University, I follow my own heart to do something that I want, never really considering what others think. In the very first season it went really well. People loved it, designs so new to this industry. I feel, oh! I’m on the right track. But in the second season, I just followed my heart and did something completely new. Like you could see with the lenses, like the one with the animal eyes. People try to hide themselves, or think this is the real them. I didn’t consider their functionality before production. Then I realized I didn’t do the proper market research. Normally I take my own pictures. After my first season, I used my iPhone to take pictures of random cool things and for the campaign. They didn’t come out very well. I think good organization and market research would make this much better for selling. But I’ve still survived until now so thank god! This season we did a lot of research on the market, on function, on the new collection and also about our product, SKU, and the proportion of showpieces versus wearable pieces. I should take this into consideration while not compromising creativity.

CG: Are there any of your pieces that directly represent growing up in HK?
PL: I grew up in many places because of my family, we traveled a lot. I stayed in mainland for quite a while, studied in the UK for one year during middle school, and then University for four years. My background is kind of complicated but as a result I know about so many different cultures. However, my work reflects more of my studies in science. This is how I think, very scientifically. I don’t put so much emphasis on aesthetics. So you will see different collections have different aesthetics, each with a different vision. It’s like an equation or physical way of thinking, it’s biological. Hong Kong is very commercial. People are only focused on the economy, the efficiency of life, the Stock Market, how much they earn. It’s not really a place for inspiration, but a good place to live.

CG: Is there any kind of stereotype that you are trying to eradicate about your native culture?
PL: You can see from my designs that London influenced me the most. It was really funny, half of my class was international, Italian, Japanese, Korean, American. So we communicate a lot, and effect one another rather than from our own background or country. That’s why we are so different and dynamic.

CG: Do you have an ideal consumer?
PL: Someone who believes in themselves, unaffected by the trends, trust their own styles, someone like me, who is dynamic. I change my style every day but if you were my friend, you would see me everyday and say, this is Percy! I have my signature thing, sometimes I would wear all black or all white, but I’m still Percy! Unaffected by others. You understand who you are. Everyone in the world is one of a kind. You are the only one in this world, so don’t follow others. Just be you! This is how my eyewear works on other people. When they wear my eyewear, they will stand out, not afraid or ashamed of what they wear. Even if you just wear a normal shirt or jeans, there is nothing to be afraid of. Just be yourself and believe what you believe.

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