Hear the name Hung La and chances are cult-favourite womenswear label, Kwaidan Editions, first comes to mind. Established by Vietnamese-American fashion designer Hung and his wife, Léa Dickely in 2016, the Antwerp Royal Academy alumnus quickly earned an allegiance of loyal fans taken by the label’s bold, unapologetic pieces for the under-the-radar fashion lover.
Fast forward to current day and Hung’s latest venture hits a little closer to home. Dubbed Lu’uDan—Vietnamese for ‘dangerous man’—Hung, who cut his teeth at Phoebe Philo’s Celine and Balenciaga, has turned his attention to menswear, with a particularly fond focus towards streetwear.
“There is a democratic accessibility to streetwear that can simultaneously be elevated and luxurious. We still love a well-cut suit and beautiful wool trousers, but denim and jersey are versatile and reflect what people want to wear in their everyday lives,” he shares. Here, the designer lets us in on his new endeavour as well as what to expect from the brand next.
What was the initial inspiration behind setting up Lu’u Dan?
Lu’u Dan was born during the lockdown of 2020. While feeling homesick and learning to cook my favourite Asian recipes, George Floyd happened. There was so much discourse around identity and race and I started to question my positioning regarding my identity and my work as a designer. With so many unconscious biases at play in our society, I want to focus on particular untold Asian stories that have been meaningful to me.
“Asian masculinity has been projected through a narrow lens. The space allowed for Asian men to be understood and seen as they are beyond these stereotypes has been polarising without much nuance or depth.”
Redefining Asian masculinity is an integral part of the brand. Tell us more about why this was important and how the label seeks to reinterpret this.
Asian masculinity has been projected through a narrow lens.The space allowed for Asian men to be understood and seen as they are beyond these stereotypes has been polarising without much nuance or depth. When it comes to the Asian villain, we love his portrayal because he is depicted as strong, mysterious and it is the latter quality that hints at the fact that there is so much more to tell about his personhood. Stereotypes like the shy, Asian nerd are inhibiting because they make you feel like you understand someone at face value versus allowing them the room to grow and they’re not always aspirational. We don’t see ourselves in these representations that have been crafted in our image.
Do Kwaidan Editions and Lu’u Dan intersect at all?
Kwaidan Editions and Lu’u Dan are like two kids from the same parents. I work on both brands with my partner, Léa Dickely. Kwaidan is more hers and Lu’u Danis more mine. There is a shared sensibility and attention, a love of colour, texture and cut. They are very different kids though. They have different friends and interests. It was funny because we feel that there is much overlap in audience, but in the end, they appeal to different shops, stylists and consumers.
“Lu’u Dan was born during the lockdown of 2020 when George Floyd happened. There was so much discourse around identity and race and I started to question my positioning regarding my identity and my work as a designer.”
Tell us about what we can expect from your latest collection.
The spring/summer 2023 collection is about the villains we love to hate. There is something about a well-dressed villain with a sinister smile that always gets me because there’s a depth to his character that is often misunderstood. My favourite story in this collection is one we call Asian Miami Vice. There were these great detective shows in the’80s that were remakes of their American counterparts, but the characters in them were all very well dressed.
What do you feel is missing from menswear that you hope to expand on?
I don’t know if the menswear market is missing anything to be honest. It has evolved greatly in the last 10 to 15 years. But if we can bring depth in our storytelling while making desirable and thought-provoking products, I will be proud of the contribution we are making to the menswear landscape.
“The brand is about creating a community and representation. It’s about seeing yourself as you are, not as a trope to be projected.”
How would you like someone to feel wearing your pieces?
When people buy the brand, I want them to buy into the world because they understand its ethos. The clothing is desirable but there is something deeper to these pieces. Growing up in America, there were no strong Asians in Western media and culture that I could feel inspired or represented by. The brand is about creating a community and representation. It’s about seeing yourself as you are, not as a trope to be projected. I would like to create a visual identity and attitude that will be known and felt throughout our communities.
We are working on our fourth collection which we will show in Paris in January 2023. We are always working on our city tours, which is an initiative that connects communities by telling the stories of local Asian creatives worldwide. We identify creative individuals in a certain city and pair them with one another to engender compelling and unexpected dialogues.
We then work with a local photographer to shoot them in the latest collection in their city, which in turn becomes like another character in these images. The way they transform when wearing the clothes is always a sight to see. After that we sit them down and talk through their creative journeys and how that intersects with their roots. We would love to come to Singapore soon.