I caught up with the globetrotting fashion maven to get the inside scoop on her inspirations, aspirations and plans for the future…
LPA: Did you always know that you wanted to be a fashion designer or did a specific experience inspire you to go in that direction?
SH: I’ve always loved to express myself through fashion from a very early age. I would like to think I was the first person to have had face piercings (I had my dimple and nose pierced) in Beijing at that time was a very pioneering thing to do in the 90s in China because it was very conservative back then. I remember that my teacher was fuming because I dyed my whole hair to a rainbow colour and turned up to my class one day with my face piercings. I hated wearing school uniforms - I used to turn up to my class wearing something I made from my mum’s dress - I used to get into a lot of trouble at school (and home of course) because of the way I dressed or my hair colour. My parents thought I was doing it to get the boys attention but it’s so not I just genuinely loved to express myself through fashion. I went to live in New Zealand when I was a teen then became a proper hippie – dressed in every colour you could imagine and would cover myself with all sorts of fabrics, I even had seashells on my dreadlocks! I had done a sewing course when I lived in Wellington so subconsciously I think I knew that would be my path. Then in 2002 one of my best friends’ sister opened a jewellery shop in Tokyo and I went to stay with her. It was the same as the “Harajuku fashion” and the Fruits magazine dominated Tokyo streets which really enhanced my passion for fashion. After that I decided to enrol to a proper fashion college so I came to London.
LPA: Why did you decide to launch your own label straight after graduating from Insitituo Maragoni rather than looking to work at an established brand?
SH: Well, I was already designing for a fashion company at the time I graduated, but I’d say my debut fashion show at The London Fashion and Textile Museum was my break after graduating from Istituto Marangoni. I had a real buzz from the show and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to quit the fashion company I was designing for at that time – Arrogant Cat – and start my brand. By that point, I already had an idea of how the industry worked and I already had a vision of the STAR HU woman so I decided to make a splash on my own.
LPA: You were born in Beijing and grew up living in Wellington, Tokyo and London. How do you feel these different experiences have influenced your design aesthetic?
SH: Living in different countries and being surrounded by different cultures has made me more accepting of different styles and just generally more open minded. Beijing offered traditional and more classic styles and in Wellington I got to embrace my hippy side and experiment with every colour imaginable! Then I went to Tokyo where the fashion is more avant garde, experimental and playful fashion and finally London, which I’ve found to be a mixture of everything. London is all about individuality, with its blend of cultures, traditions and subcultures. I think the most attractive thing about London’s fashion scene is its diversity, everyone can shine here.
LPA: Star Hu has already been spotted on high profile women including Rita Ora, Nicola Roberts and Camilla Rutherford. Is there anyone else you would particularly love to see wearing your designs?
SH: I would love to see everyone in STAR HU! When you see someone in your designs it is just a wonderful feeling no matter who they are. But to answer this question, Anna Wintour, what designer wouldn’t? I’m a big fan of Downton Abbey (I recorded it every sunday on my Sky+) so I always wanted to see some of the cast in STAR HU and I recently dressed Elizabeth Mcgovern (Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey) which was amazing.
LPA: Given that your brand is just two years old, the fact you’re opening your own boutique is amazing! What prompted this decision? And why did you choose Notting Hill as the location?
SH: The history of Portobello Road was very important to me. I was also previously stocked in Wolf & Badger on Ledbury Road so already had a taste of the area. I Love Portobello Road as it’s a real “community feeling” and I’ve got Preen as my next door neighbour and other really cool and versatile boutiques in the same arcade, you can’t go wrong with that. Also it’s extremely hard at the moment in this economic downturn for a young label to break into big department stores in London, so I decided to open my own.
LPA: On top of your R-T-W collections you also offer made to measure pieces. How does the bespoke order process work exactly?
SH: I understand it can be difficult for women to buy a stunning outfit when some of us don’t fit into the limited standard European sizes. This is why at STAR HU we offer a made-to-measure service for clients who enjoy a highly individualised experience. Every piece of the collection is available made-to-measure with the additional option of unique colour and fabric choice to the client’s particular specifications. Normally customers will come into the store for a fitting, otherwise they contact us with details and we visit them. Sometimes they’ll show us their own ideas and drawings, and we will combine it with STAR HU’s essence. I like the idea of creating bespoke pieces, and knowing that there’s nothing else like it out there which makes it more desirable!
Love Ella. X