Welcome to Planet Robert Wun—a bold new world where feminism, escapism, and futurism collide to form an exciting, never-seen-before blueprint for fashion. Novelty is the oxygen that fuels this Hong Kong-born, London- based designer’s creations, while his winged imagination is their lifeblood.
His mind rebels against recreating or repackaging what’s been done before. “I like to imagine how things would look in my world,” says the 30-year-old Robert, while chatting with us over Zoom from his East London studio. “And for this, I usually return to my roots. Be it music or films that inspired me, snatches of science fiction like Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, or the Studio Ghibli stories, ” he adds.
From thrift shopping and transforming second-hand clothing as an 11-year-old, to graduating from London College of Fashion in 2012 and launching his eponymous label two years after, to dressing celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Cardi B, Celine Dion, and Solange Knowles ever since, Robert’s growth as an artist, designer and entrepreneur has been exponential. A believer in direct communication with his audience, he regards his Instagram page (@robertwun) as his trusted portfolio.
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“To me, futurism signals unlimited possibilities, unlimited imagination. It also means optimism and moving forward. Futurism is a rejection of mediocre fashion; its limitlessness can make it profound,” Robert shares his thoughts.
Limitlessness is at the heart of Robert’s Autumn/Winter ’21 collection Armour. A heartfelt ode to the most important women in his life—his mother, his sister, his friends, but most importantly his grandmother, who passed away in October, last year. As with his other collections, Robert manages to skillfully oscillate between his two favourite realms—science fiction and nature—to create “an army that could go to heaven” with his beloved grandmother.
The multi-hued collection sees his grandmother’s favourite bird, the swallow, transforming into a futuristic mythical creature. Soft pleats are cut in streamlined formations like a swallow’s tail and give the impression of being crafted from a robust material like metal. Bursting with visceral shades of pink, yellow, red, cobalt blue, and turquoise, pleated gowns meld into a cascade of straps and stark silhouettes, channelling the forces of nature and science fiction at once. Robert’s razor-sharp design aesthetic is ably supported by masterful pattern-cutting. Be it the spotted orchid dress, the magpie suit or the variety of armour outfits, the designer cleverly juggles with shapes, forms, and layers.
While the pandemic slowed down most of his contemporaries due to poor access to labour and materials, Robert doubled down and put in 15-hour-workdays to bring out this collection. “You don’t take things for granted. You work harder. The moment you give up, everything is lost. I inherited this spirit and work ethic from my mother, sister and grandmother,” he says.
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Robert’s idea of feminism is informed by the women in his family—from his grandmother who brought his father to Hong Kong from China during its post-Civil War period and raised him as a single mother against great odds, to his own mother who has been working and studying since she was 12. Add to that the lingering influence of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, which cast women in strong central characters that don’t need to be rescued by men. “Oh, I have grown up on all his movies,” he recalls.
Robert, who considers himself a minority, draws strength from women’s struggles against an overbearing society. “As a Chinese designer in London, you always manoeuvre between your East Asian heritage and your identity as a designer of international standing,” he says, referring to the expectation for designers of colour to stick to talking about their heritage. “So, in me, there’s this spirit to fight against the system,” he says.
As critical as Robert is about the fashion industry’s hierarchical structure, he is happy with the progress that has been made and about finding his place in it. “Designers ought to challenge beauty standards. The youth of today can’t even connect with the idea of beauty being represented by a single type of body or skin, which was all that there was in the past,” he says, sharing his optimism about the future of diversity in fashion. “We should listen to the youth.”
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