Canada´s former junior national figure skating champion has transferred his winning streak to the fashion world with a successful Hong Kong-based shoe company, Cipherism.
How does one make the leap from skating champ to business mogul?
Looking back at it, the lessons I learned from figure skating were probably the most influential. In skating, if you want to learn something you have to go down the ice, jump, and fall on your own, and maybe fall a thousand times. And I think that´s really with anything in life. So I literally woke up one morning and said, you know, I´m going to design shoes. And I got on the computer and I drew something absolutely horrible. But you´ve got to start somewhere. And then with practice and time you get really, really good.
What made you decide to move to Hong Kong?
I studied film at York, and one day I picked up this movie called Fallen Angels and it was the most visually breathtaking thing I´d ever seen. From there, I watched all the Wong Kar Wai films and got really into Chinese cinema. Hong Kong provided a landscape that was very futuristic, international, and multicultural, but not in the way we know it in Toronto: To me it really is the brave new world and the shift in the way the world operates socioeconomically is happening right here.
Hong Kong has traditionally been a financial hub, so what has your experience been as a young creative professional?
It started off very difficult because five years ago, the bankers were still at the top of the social echelon. But when the economic crash hit, there was a mass exodus of bankers and they realized that wasn’t what they could base their economy on. You have to be innovative, because innovation is the only thing that really sustains a culture, and ultimately an economy. So there’s been a big push to support and enhance creativity here.
Many people with design ambitions – and these are people who have actually studied design – never see their dreams get off the ground. What do you think it is about your brand that’s resonating?
We really believe that the business we have here has to exist on a higher plane than just making money. People really like things that are authentic, and they really buy into the Horatio Alger story about the guy who came to Hong Kong and said, “Hey, I’m going to draw some sneakers, and if you like them, this is what we´re about. We’re about things that are much more than this piece of leather.
Do you ever dust off your skates and take a spin around the rink?
Only when I´m trying to woo women (laughs). It works pretty well. But now I don’t have time to woo women – work is my girlfriend!