What exactly is a lifestyle designer - how did you start? What’s your day-to-day like?
As a lifestyle designer, I have the opportunity to work in all areas design, whether it be, web design, corporate identity design, product design and fashion. From a young age I have always been drawn to anything that was creative and had a design element to it. I loved to sketch, draw and graffiti, which at times got me into a little trouble! Fresh out of school, I was lucky enough to start working for an advertising agency as a yard hand, cleaning the studio and running errands for the first year. I then trained as a graphic designer and over a five year period was working as an Art Director. This time gave me so much experience on the creative and business side and the ability to work with some major brands.
From there I moved to New York City where I lived and studied Film Directing and Editing. This was a huge eye opener for me, it was my first experience of living abroad and it gave me a taste of even more possibilities of how a good an eye for design could be implemented into so many different elements of our everyday life. I then started my own creative studio called Tuhi Creative. (Tuhi - is a Maori word that means to communicate). I didn’t want it to be an advertising agency or just a design studio. The goal was to creative a business that would focus all creative elements that we interact with in our lives. Whether it be brand consulting, multi-media design, interior design, product design, social networking, fashion & styling, photography, events, blogging etc. It’s this approach that has given me the opportunity to work overseas and I now have a second studio in Hong Kong.
I don’t like to be stagnant and get bored easy so the bonus of working in so many creative fields is that no two days are ever the same. I can be on a photoshoot in the morning, in the office designing a logo, then picking material samples for a store fit out in the afternoon and updating my blog during the evening. I love what I do so I never feel like I’m not working.
Who are some of your clients - & what sort of work have you done for them?
I have worked with a wide range of different brands from fashion labels, the automotive industry, restaurants, retail and event/creative agencies. I never know who’s going to be the next client around the corner so I try to have as many interests as possible. I think that’s what’s given me the advantage over a lot of competitors. If you don’t know how to talk a brands language, you won’t be able to communicate to their audience. I love cars and that’s what helped me work with clients like Mercedes-Benz, Renualt, Ralliart, Honda and Nissan. If I didn’t have an interest in fashion I wouldn’t of had the opportunities with Cartier and Stella McCartney. And the same goes for working on interior designs for restaurants and bars.
Some that have stood out to me are City Beach which are the largest surf/skate retailers nation wide around Australia. I grew up with this street/surf culture, so it came natural working on their events, branding, advertising and week long photo shoots at exotic beaches was definitely perk.
FreshFishCo. & FreshSushiCo. is a high end seafood market and Japanese restaurant where I had the challenge of convincing the client to go with salmon pink for their branding. In the end they came around and once all the branding, signage and packaging was completed they were glad they went with my option.
Limes Boutique Hotel is one of the first hotels recognised by Design Hotels. I designed all the branding and also managed their events and entertainment.
There is always creative restrictions working with clients so you need to create your own projects. I have also worked on many of my own designs such as a fashion parade I did as part of a lighting event called SPARK. All my t-shirt designs were printed with phosphorus paints. I ran a charity for called Homeless Hoods where I made hooded jumpers to give to homeless people that had a blank speech bubble in the middle for them to express a message to everyone. I designed a fully functional skateboard docking sound system for an art event called ‘I Used To Skate Once’. I love packaging so I put a lot of thought into the way my products are presented and function.
Tell us about your upcoming projects.
My work is always divided into client projects and personal projects. I’m currently brand consulting for a new Japanese denim label called Washi Jeans, I am the design brand ambassador for ELEQT who I worked with brands such as Lamborghini & T.W.Steel watches for events and interviews. I have just completed the branding and two store designs for Halewinner Watch Group and Unique Timepieces. I am in the process of designing three very large interactive websites with interactive online stores but unfortunately I’m not allowed to go into detail because of client confidentiality. I’m working with a I.T. firm called Roctek on a whole new identity and marketing roll out over the next twelve months that will include iPhone & iPad applications and video teasers. I have an on-going relationship with Yardbird helping them out with graphic work. I’m about to begin designing luxury luggage for a new client from Vancouver, Canada. I’m also working on a new clothing line and product range under my own company.
They say that life imitates art. What sort of art has influenced the way that you live/your lifestyle?
There is two things I look at in art. The function and the aesthetics. It must stimulate one of my five senses. Some things are designed to be visually appealing and others have more thought into the function and the way we interact with it. A piece of art can bring up memories as a child or a place I’ve been. The medium it’s portrayed on can sometimes be just as important to me. Street art is a very good example of this. I always surround myself with creative objects whether it’s a piece of furniture in my home or office or a graffiti piece a walk pass on the street. It’s the story behind it and the mood it provokes in me.
You’ve lived everywhere - New Zealand, Australia, New York, Tokyo... what does Hong Kong offer that these places don’t? What sets it apart?
Hong Kong has been about timing for me. I feel like it’s where I need to be at the moment. I moved to Tokyo at the beginning of 2011 to set up and expand my company. Unfortunately four months in, Tokyo was hit by the devastating earthquake. I had one friend living in Hong Kong at the time and he was kind enough to let me stay. Six weeks later, I was still in Hong Kong and ended up deciding to stay and picked up a lot of amazing work opportunities here. I love living with different cultures and Hong Kong is one of the most multicultural cities and unique lifestyles I have experienced. The creative scene here is still very limited but that just means there’s plenty of opportunities here to make your mark and be recognised globally.
Favorite restaurant in HK?
Definitely Yardbird. Matt and Lindsay have created a new style of dining in Hong Kong and kept it simple but put a lot of thought into the details.
Favorite store in HK?
To be honest, I struggle to find a store in Hong Kong I really love. There are a handful that have key products I like but any book or magazine store are probably my favourite to visit in my spare time.
Piece of advice for people trying to make it in this town?
Network. Network. Network. I find everyone here very friendly and open to work together and support each other. So you should take advantage of that and if you’re new to this city force yourself to explore outside your comfort zone.
Designer toys are back in a big way (at adult prices) . Why do you think that is? What’s the appeal?
There was a movement in early 2000, where graffiti artist started exploring new mediums to work with like vinyl figurines, sneakers etc. Artists like Michael Lau, KAWS, Futura started turning their static painted characters into these amazing figurines/sculptures. For me that channelled toys from my childhood and also challenged artists to look at their work three dimensionally.
Tell us about your 5 picks from your office - the UNDFTD poster, KAWS bear brick, UNDFTD tee, skate decks, sake.
I was lucky enough to pick up this collaborative piece between UNDEFEATED x APPLEBUM Tokyo 23 Project when I was in Tokyo last year. It was only released through the UNDEFEATED store in Tokyo and was completely sold out first day. When I came back to the store the following day, the manager recognised me and had kept one extra and ended up selling it to me. It was a cool collaboration because it came with a matching t-shirt as well. I love the pencil illustration.
I have been a KAWS collector for nearly ten years now so it’s crazy to see how much his work goes for these days. I have many little bear bricks but never been able to pick up one of the 1000% size bear bricks. This came up at my friends store in Australia so I was quick to jump on this and bring it back to Hong Kong with me. The bigger the figurine, the more I feel like a kid.
I have so many skate decks in storage and they’re still one of my favourite mediums to see artwork on. It takes me back to some of my best memories skateboarding all weekend with mates around the city.
The Gold Leaf Sake was a birthday present from a good friend Hiro who’s family has been producing Sake for hundreds of years. The best thing about it was the box which he covered in my collection of Snap! gallery girls I post on my blog and facebook. Very thoughtful gift.
This tee was a gift from my best mate in Tokyo Ume who gave this too me when I first moved to Japan. It was a cross over with Union x Undefeated x Mad Hectic and was only given to staff. It still sits on my shelf and has a lot of sentimental value to me.