In 2003, together with his childhood friend, Kevin Poon, Chen started his own fashion label, Clot. The brand is known for collaborating with Nike and Kanye West. Here, Edison Chen on his transition from an actor to starting his own brand, the streetwear zeitgeist back in the late 1990s, and the motivations behind his streetwear label, Clot:
"Initially, I was just a star and a manager told me what to do every day. One night, I was actually sold — like sold to another company. It was very demeaning to me and I felt very helpless. I felt like I was not in control of anything.
One very important thing was that when I started being an actor, or an entertainer in Hong Kong, people would always be making fun of the way I dress, and people would always be making fun of the way that I spoke or the way I stood. I think hip-hop wasn't such a big thing in the late '90s, early 2000s in Asia. So at that moment, I was wondering why they didn't understand what it was that we were doing.
At the same time, in the American market, there was a huge gap of high-quality Chinese products or high-quality Chinese creativity. So what we wanted to do was to bring the people that we loved and supported so dearly to China, and showcase these people. But at the same time, being able to work with them and collaborate with them, and exchange creative ideas, so that we can be on the same level. That's the most important point. For us, it was to be recognised by people all around the world that we are a Chinese brand, but we're fly too.
We are now actually working on some projects with Polo [Ralph Lauren] and with Ralph Lauren. I think it's a sign of the times. I really feel like the youths in China really need to open their eyes and realise that the world is within their grasp. They just need to believe that they can get it. I believe it's something that is lacking with the youths of China. They always like to watch and enjoy. But they need to work hard and persevere and excel [too].
I always say this — in every place of the world, there are rules and regulations. Not even in China, in America, in Europe — in everywhere. But in the creative world, there is no rule. There is no limit. The world is yours, the mind can expand to anywhere. So you need to use that freedom in your everyday struggles.
Now, when they watch these hip-hop videos and they see the street culture stuff, they're kind of like, "Wow, this is so fresh and new. I like it." Why do you like it? They might not even know why they like it. It's because it represents something that they lack — that is to be able to think openly and be like, "I can do this, and I will do this."
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