Born in Shanghai, raised in Hong Kong, Grace Choi was a fashion model before starting her own production company to organize fashion shows and events.
Three years ago, she decided to launch her own fashion brand called Yi-ming — a label that creates Asian-influenced cocktail dress designs.
Yi-ming’s pieces are stunning. For those who haven’t seen them, Grace’s dresses are cinematic, sexy and soulful.
In the following Q&A, we talk with Grace about her label, her love of fashion and why you shouldn’t dare her to do Jägerbombs.
For more information about Yi-ming, please visit http://www.yi-ming.asia
1. Why did you become a designer?
I’ve always been interested in the glamour of 1920s Shanghai, and I felt the market for the modern qipao dressed was underserved. Plus I have studied fashion design and marketing, which was a good foundation to develop my own brand. Another big benefit: I get to design something I like to wear by myself.
2. Who are your influences?
* Diane Von Furstenberg (DVF);
* Nathan Jenden (former creative director of DVF who now has his own brand);
* David Tang (the founder of Shanghai Tang); and
* Khalil Fong (a well-known singer in Asia).
3. Why did you choose to design qipao? Is there any difference between qipao and cheongsam?
I saw there was a need for a modern version of the dress, and wanted to educate the younger generations about the beauty of Chinese culture.
There’s no difference bewteen qipao and cheongsam. Qipao is how you refer to the dress in Mandarin; Cheongsam is the pronunciation in Cantonese.
4. Where do you get your ideas? We really love your Body-con Dresses, btw!
Thanks! I’m inspired by anything with a classic Chinese touch… from architecture to interior design to old Shanghai scenes.
5. Do you still model from time to time? As a model, what were a few of your most favorite shoots or shows?
Barely, except modeling for my own brand 🙂
My favorite shoot was the second campaign shoot for Yi-ming. I was a model for that shoot, as well.
My favorite show: London Fashion Week, 2009.
6. Your career aside, name your favorite… fashion magazine; fashion photographer; and fashion model. Feel free to elaborate 🙂
* Magazine: Vogue Italia;
* Fashion Models: Sun Fei Fei and Devon Aoki; and
* Photographer: Chen Man
7. What’s it like starting a business in Hong Kong? Any suggestions or tips for people wanting to start their own venture there?
HK is easy to start your own business as the company set-up fee is cheap, there’s lots of opportunities if you have a broad network and good communication skills, and also because of a low tax rate!
We can also get SME funding support through the Hong Kong Small & Medium Enterprises General Association.
For tips: Apart from having a unique idea, you need to pay attention to what the market actually needs. Also, I can’t stress the importance of networking for running a business.
9. Who should buy one of your creations?
A person should think about buying one of my dresses if they appreciate Chinese culture and want to look elegant and fashionable.
10. What are your most favorite travel destinations? And what are five items you always pack for vacation/holiday?
Dubai; Florence; Phuket; and Shanghai.
A pillow towel; lip balm; selfie stick; battery pack; and flip flops.
11. What was your most favorite holiday, and why?
In 2013, I road-tripped in a convertible through Switzerland, Italy and France. I enjoyed the weather, food and shopping. My favorite place was Florence, where I stayed at a large unique historic villa with an amazing view, which overlooked the entire city.
12. Other than one of your designs, what is your most favorite outfit (currently and all-time)?
A white shirt, slim trousers, and a slim-cut business suit jacket. It’s more of a business women look!
13. What is something that most people don’t know about you?
While I design very feminine dresses, I have a boyish side to me. I hate to be girly! That’s why I have many “mate” friends!
And I love Jägerbombs! Lol…
Yi-Ming’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Yimingchannel
Through its insistence on consistency and quality, Yi-ming has transported the tailored Asian aesthetic to another time and place, and forged a dramatic cross-cultural style.
Yi-ming celebrates the creation of beautiful clothes that appeal to all ages and ethnicities. It offers stylish, high-quality products as well as inviting the consumer to experience the history and philosophy behind them – a dedication to innovation and exotic imagery.
Yi-ming’s collection is available in online stores and several boutiques in Hong Kong.
All images courtesy of Grace Choi and Yi-ming