HONG KONG — To the casual observer, the Chinese practice of feng shui might appear to be about shuffling furniture around or orienting oneself to nature. According to Thierry Chow, it’s a holistic concept that goes much further than that.
In much of the same way that the Marie Kondo decluttering movement inspired thousands to ask how their wardrobe made them feel about themselves, Chow is taking the lens of feng shui and applying it to fashion.
The daughter of one of Hong Kong’s most esteemed feng shui masters Chow Hon Ming, Thierry Chow studied art illustration in Canada before returning to Asia to follow her father into the practice five years ago. While it is dominated by older men, Chow is decidedly modern in her approach, fusing her love of style to the ancient art.
Juggling her time with design work, she hopes to make feng shui a bit more accessible and open to a younger audience. Aside from working with private clients, she pens a blog in which she calculates sartorial advice for each of the 12 Chinese horoscopes and other wardrobe-conscious ways to maintain good “qi.” Fashion brands have taken notice: She’s appeared in a Guerlain campaign, and has been invited by brands like Max & Co. and J.Crew to do readings at events.
WWD: What is it exactly that you do?
Thierry Chow: My work now involves both designing and feng shui, and my biggest goal is to modernize it. It is all about the environment and how it affects our mental and physical health.
WWD: What would you say is the normal dress code for feng shui masters?
T.C.: I’d say very traditional or Chinese-style suits are the normal dress code for feng shui masters because normally it’s older men. It’s what they think would be a professional look since it’s a Chinese occupation. I would say most, around 80 to 90 percent, [of feng shui experts] are men. I only see a handful of women in the industry.
WWD: How do you dress now for work versus five years ago?
T.C.: I love dressing in my own style, always mixing and matching different pieces. I dress a bit more colorful and edgy compared to five years ago. I think because I’ve always loved fashion. Even with my mom when I was little, if she made me dress in a certain way, I’d be really upset if it wasn’t the way I wanted to dress. When I went into feng shui, I didn’t want to completely dress differently [to other professionals] but at some point I just couldn’t take it anymore.
WWD: How is feng shui incorporated into fashion?
T.C.: How I interpret feng shui is not really only about the environment. Things around us can make us feel a certain way but it’s the same with clothing. It can make you feel more confident when you go to a party or a job interview.
Even my dad, he does give advice for fashion, like you should wear a jade necklace or wear more certain colors to uplift your energy or your look. When I saw that, I just took it further.
I start with the zodiac and I look at the elements in each zodiac. This year’s would be fire and metal, and I balance it using the five elements. For instance, the rabbit this year — what we say is there is a lot of movement in the stars — so you’d need to travel a lot, don’t sit still. The rabbit has a lot of wood element so you can wear certain things like blue and silver that can help with it. It balances it out or it helps to make it even better.
In the five-element theory, wood grows fire, fire grows earth, earth grows metal and metal grows water.
WWD: Why do you think your clients go to you?
T.C.: I think the number-one thing is that people really like that I love fashion. The second is, I became this platform for people who do want to know more about feng shui and I’m able to give them access to it. A lot of people say to me they’ve always been interested in it but they don’t know who to go to. My goal is to change the language and make it more modern. When they talk to me, they understand it a lot more.
For example, feng shui masters might say “Oh, there’s a dragon flying through the mountain.” For me, I would say it in a more modern way. People sometimes wonder, “Why did they say dragon?” There’s obviously no dragon: actually they mean the energy that is flowing through the mountains, the qi. It’s not some magical thing.
WWD: What is your take on vintage or second-hand clothing? In feng shui, will an item’s history affect the new owner?
T.C.: It really depends on where they’re getting all this clothing from, and are they using it for a good matter. Many people say that if the person who owned it before had bad luck, it would carry on in the item. I do agree in certain cases, but it’s very important when the person goes to look at this second-hand item, they need to feel comfortable. And there are ways to renew it spiritually, but it really depends on the person’s beliefs.
I love second-hand clothing stores as I love hunting for second-hand clothes, such as May Ji and Midwest Vintage.
WWD: Who or what is the biggest influence on what you put on for work?
T.C.: My influences come from beautiful things that I love in everyday life, objects, nature, colors, shapes, and people who are very expressive in terms of their dressing style, like Michelle Harper, and Iris Apel.
WWD: Are there any items in your profession that are off-limits? Or should be?
T.C.: There isn’t any really, and I don’t think there should be! Though I do get questions from some older people at times about the way I dress.
WWD: Do you follow fashion trends, or prefer to stay true to your style?
T.C.: I love knowing the fashion trends, but I don’t feel obligated to follow it, because I think it’s important to stay true to your own style.
WWD: Do you have any favorite brands or shops that you return to time and time again?
T.C.: There are a few local shops that I go to all the time, like my shoes which are custom-made by this lady in Causeway Bay [in Hong Kong]. My favorite brands are Chloé, Céline, Masion Margiela, Marni, MSGM, Mo & Co., and Delpozo.
WWD: What’s your favorite purchase of the last few months and why?
T.C.: I love my dress from the brand Kloset, and a pink dress from MSGM, because they are actually quite comfy, and I can put them on quickly in the morning but still look stylish. I also went to Japan in May and purchased some second-hand clothes, one particular is a dress shirt. I absolutely love the colors, great pieces to mix and match.