Australian Fashion Industry, Commentary, Interview

Lui Hon

April 8
Four models walking down the catwalk at the Lui Hon runway show in Melbourne in different coloured dresses.

The names given to my collections seem to happen in the moment of time […] I truly believe that everyone has a “little hero” inside of them.

My heart beats with excitement as I survey the beautifully serene space, lined with chairs upon sleek, dark floorboards. Streams of natural light pour in through side windows. The models have been carefully selected by virtue of both their beauty and their ability to “glide”. The space is ethereal – its long, expansive wings balanced effortlessly by a live musical performance by a woman named Ping. She plays an ancient Chinese instrument called a Gu Zheng, the sound of which literally transports me back to an ancient time. With a face of enigmatic calm, Ping plucks its eighteen strings with a pick made of the shell of a hawksbill turtle.

The space is the RMIT design hub in Melbourne’s Carlton.

The event – Open Endedness – Lui Hon Prive Show 2015/2016

The man behind it all – the incomparable Lui Hon.

It is Lui who I’ve flown in to interview tonight – one of Melbourne’s gleaming fashion success stories, I’m brimming with anticipation to meet the man behind this awesome label.

Lui grew up in Malaysia. Of Chinese descent, he is the youngest son of three children. Lui speaks of his very conservative Chinese upbringing. As children, they learned about the expectation of respect and attention needing to be paid to the cultural aspects of their heritage. Lui was educated in a Chinese school and felt the pressure of having to study. When he was a small child, sitting on the floor, his mother presented him with a pair of scissors, a pen and a chicken drumstick. He tells me that in some Chinese families this is customary to see whether the child will instinctively reveal their natural passions and talents.

Lui chose the scissors. It’s not difficult to understand why.

His collection 2015/2016 is breathtaking, and if I may be allowed to predict the future, we will be hearing a lot about this label in years to come, not only in this country.

It may not come as a surprise that Lui’s mother was not so keen, when at age 26, he decided to study fashion design in Australia.  At this time there was a recession in Asia, a time of crisis for their working population.

At the time Lui was working in retail womenswear and this inspired him. Lui’s mother felt that this was no career for a man, but he convinced her that it was indeed the right thing for him. He was driven, even at this early stage by his assertiveness and tenacity to achieve his dreams. His level of passion and desire to help women of all ages continue to be the best they can be and to always have the tools available to reinvent themselves has always been of great importance to him.

Lui explains that he simply felt the need to contribute to the fashion industry and that he needed to follow his dreams. He graduated from RMIT in 2004 and was later nominated for the Woolmark Prize, a very prestigious recognition. The Lui Hon label was born in September 2008, following Project Runway. Lui describes himself as stubborn and believes that people should be prepared to lay down their achievements before they make demands of any kind.

Hardworking, and tireless in his pursuit of excellence, Lui’s attention to detail and dedication to mastery is phenomenal whether it be to the piece of wool, silk or leather he is crafting, or tonight’s runway event.

I think one of the things that I love about the Lui Hon label is that his garments are truly wearable and can slot into any wardrobe with ease. A combination of monochromatic colours and a magnificent marital blending of cream, black, grey, and blues. Some garments showed a magnificent winter pastel pallet of cream and blue hues. The fabrics used comprised silk, linen, leather and technical fabric.

This dedication to the label which bears his name, is unmistakably one which belongs to someone who has a passion for fashion. His business partner, Luka Maich is equally as passionate. A pillar of strength for Lui and his dreams. He describes his contribution to the vision of Lui Hon in the following way. “I create the strength in the legs that uphold the beauty”. They are a team of passion, design excellence and eloquence.

Lui Hon and Luka Maich standing together prior to the event at the Lui Hon Prive Show 2015/2016.

Lui Hon & Luka Maich at the RMIT Design Hub in Melbournes Carlton.

They are Lui Hon. And the rest is history as they say.

It’s a rainy and very cold March night here in Melbourne. Winter seems to have visited early and everyone is out in their coats, scarves and boots. Of course black predominates. It is Melbourne after all and this might be a good time to add, that I actually love the fashion in Melbourne. The predominantly black however, is noticeably teemed with winter white, greys of all shades, and the new black, squid ink blue.

As I sat down to interview Lui before the show, he answered some questions that were burning a hole in my fashionista head  …


What is the philosophy behind your label?


The philosophy of the Lui Hon label is really a continuous story from one collection to the other – each collection is relevant to the other. For me, each collection is like a little story, almost like writing a novel.  The notion and concept behind each of the pieces is to allow them to intermingle and to be able to speak to each other.

The colour black predominates in every season, and quite deliberately, as this is the uniting thread within the collections year in year out. The collection needs to be able to slip into every woman’s wardrobe. It is important for me to know that the Lui Hon client is always capable of adding new pieces to their wardrobe in order to expand the range. I don’t believe in fast fashion where pieces are constantly being added and taken out of ones wardrobe to be thrown away. My range is sustainable and offers longevity. When I buy a piece of designer fashion I want it to last forever.


What do you love about living in Melbourne and how does this city inspire you? How does Melbourne relate to your collections?


We have a great sense of diversity in Melbourne and we are fortunate to be able to celebrate all kinds of people, backgrounds and languages. As a creative person I also appreciate the architectural landscape of Melbourne. I love our combination of historic and new architecture and I feel that this provides Melbournians a culture of multiple layers or from a birds eye view, a certain blueprint.


To what do you attribute your success?


Well firstly I don’t see myself as a success quite yet. I understand the importance of hard work, and taking calculated risks. Commitment, respect of one’s self, ability to focus on your dreams, and realising the importance of running your own race, without comparison of others. I also think it is important not to be stagnant in life and to always move along with time. Sometimes, others will run faster than you, but I run at my pace. My first collection, following Project Runway, was called Little Hero. I truly believe that everyone has a “little hero” inside of them. Converse with yourself on each journey. Stop. Think. Then move to the next stop. Reflect. And know what you have gained in that moment. There is always someone waiting for you with a light to show you the way.


What do you see as the design foundations of the Lui Hon label?


I love wool. I appreciate wool. I adore wool. The wool fibre is one of the most flexible and resilient fabrics available to us. The fibre itself has tenacity, body, and character.  These characteristics allow me to create a beautiful marriage of tailoring and draping. I believe that wool contributes to our appreciation of the visual, allowing us to be conscious of the body and the visual weight of the fabric. Of course, I use it in combination with silk and leather.


I am absolutely intrigued at the names you give to your collections. Where do you find the inspiration for these names?


The names given to my collections seem to “happen in the moment of time”.  Every season I literally reflect on what has happened in my life in the last six months and kind of feel into those moments. I connect to the emotion of those times and somehow a name becomes apparent. For instance, the collection “Straight Ahead” came from when Luka and I were in New York in 2014, visiting an amazing gallery. I thought that the collection we were viewing was called “Straight Ahead”. It was not. It was actually Luka telling me to look, straight ahead, and watch that step!  And then, in that moment, the name of a collection was born.

Born into a moment of time …

An important thing that has inspired me over the years is my family, the characters within it. They are my role models. One of my sisters in particular, Esther.  I have watched her go through so many tough times in her life and it reminds me often that women are resilient and have great tenacity. My collection, ‘Estherian’, was literally named as a tribute to my sister.

I have noticed when women are presented with obstacles, they often bounce back ten times stronger than men. This seems to have been a theme in my life and I have been surrounded by women. It is a quality that I have grown to admire.


Sitting and speaking with Lui for quite some time showed me the thoughtful, compassionate and gentle soul that he is. I commented that I thought Lui would win himself a lot of fans with his wonderful appraisal of his perceived strengths in women. How refreshing it is to have a designer creating collections for women who want them to always look their best, reinvent themselves at any given time, and who thinks we are truly awesome creatures.

Yep, I knew it! I officially love this guy!

Lui Hon and Jade Odermatt . Interview prior to the Prive Show 2015/2016

Interview with Lui Hon


What is the Open Endedness collection about?


Open Endedness is a collection about “the quality of adaption”. He believes that as people we have to learn to adapt ‘like water’ and this collection represents this notion with its supremely interchangeable garments, crafted in wool, silk and leather.


Who is the Lui Hon woman? What sort of a person is she?


I am very much inspired by the woman with a strong character. Strength, confidence, tenacity are aspects of the personality which inspire me. I not only admire this in women but generally in the human spirit. The Lui Hon woman lives “consciously”. She is careful about her life choices in everything she does. She is individual, authentic, confident and absolutely herself.


I understand you currently design for women. Will you design for men in the future?


I don’t design for men currently but would like to in the future. I design some pieces at the moment that are unisex. I am committed to women wearing garments that are flattering to women. Designing menswear is not as complicated and challenging as designing for women. The actual fit of two size eights can be very different, and I enjoy this challenge. Fitting a garment and tailoring each piece requires the best of me and I enjoy rising to the challenge.


What garments do you like to buy?


I hardly buy any clothes for myself! But I do have a penchant for shoes…


Aaahh.  Yes, I did hear that when you were in New York you paid a visit to commes des garcon?


Yes! And bought some Margiela sneakers!


Whats your favourite international label for men and women?


I appreciate all designers at all their different levels. I enjoy Yohji Yamamoto for the layering and the non structural aspect. You need confidence in yourself to wear this kind of designer’s work and be happy not to look like the mainstream.

I also appreciate what Tom Ford achieved with Gucci and to do this you need to be very assertive, precise and strong in your decision making. This is a talent which I feel I don’t have. I always appreciate the simplicity of Ann Demeulemeester. I appreciate Maison Margiela with the continuation of deconstructing the value in fashion, and this has changed our beliefs and the way we view fashion.


What designs do you feel best compliment women as they get older?


Black! Perhaps to use colours monochromatically. Play with tone on tone and use textures. Look at good tailoring and proportions. Wear clothes that truly fit you, and work on your inner self so that you exude confidence. Putting expensive labels on your body is pointless unless it is closely connected to your own confidence and self-expression.


What do you think are the positive aspects of the Australian fashion industry?


I think that Australian designers are finally being recognised overseas. I think Australia provides a certain uniqueness in global fashion and I feel proud about that.


What advice would you give to emerging fashion designers?


My advice is to work hard, and look for healthy mentorship in relation to business practices in order to create sustainability and longevity for their labels.


I understand that you produce all your collections in Melbourne? This must have been difficult to achieve as we all know that production in Australia is expensive.


Yes it is a challenge. Producing labels is expensive. My garments are not easy to make. We like to keep it local and use a small team where we can keep the foundations strong and maintain the quality of our workmanship.


What do you think of what I call the “Zara Phenomenon” or fast fashion?


I don’t really think about it because I feel our collections are so different. There is nothing we can do about it so I think there is no point whingeing about it or even being scared about it. I do think we need to look carefully at the workmanship and uniqueness of our labels and for people who buy a Lui Hon jacket, I believe that is an investment. The prevalence of these fast fashion labels has created a feeling of competition within the market, and so we need to work smarter and harder.


What does the future hold for Lui Hon? Will we see Lui Hon in Bergdorf’s any time soon?


We would love to see our label in different parts of the world and we have a great desire to expand internationally. Perhaps, New York first.

Model on the catwalk

Lui Hon Prive Show 2015/2016

If you would like to check out Lui Hon for yourself, here are the stockists in your state. I will be certainly be making a bee line for the Sydney one very shortly.

Until next time,

Jade x



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