by Adele Leung , Fashion Stylist / Art Director, Hong Kong
My work has been in fashion styling, art direction, publication and fashion retail for the last 18 years.
I started out in this industry because of a very simple knowing in my heart that there is so much beauty around. Of course I didn’t know then that this beauty is within myself to begin with, but I did know it was this beauty that propels me to express. Never have I studied fashion design or art or photography, and ironically, I can’t even really sew or use the sewing machine. In my school days, because the sewing machine was so intimidating to me, I sewed everything by hand; I still do today, and all of that I now proudly call ‘playful’ endeavours, as the stitches are never uniform.
From the very beginning I felt there was something that was not true to my heart when I worked in the fashion industry, because I worked in a way that was unloving. I would work very hard and extremely long hours, flying constantly to Milan and Las Vegas (when I was a fashion buyer), jet-lagged, relying heavily on coffee to keep me going for long days in a show room: then heavily medicate with food and alcohol, which was referred to as ‘fine dining’, until midnight, returning to the hotel to continue with the day’s work. All this hard work in exchange paid for the expensive clothing that I wanted to put on my body, and the cycle would repeat. I never bought expensive clothes because of their brand names – rather, through clothes, I was seeking so desperately for something to confirm the feelings that I had within me, but was not expressing.
The exhaustion I caused to my body led me to react to the external adornment of physicality, but without yet fully understanding that beauty has to begin from the inside out, and not from the outside in. And thus, with this incline, my path towards understanding and expressing true beauty, began.
Leaving the fashion industry, I joined the publication industry… again with no journalism experience, only a burning impulse to express. Through beauty and fashion editorials I began to unravel beauty in a clearer light. I can feel that all is from within, yet how can I express this in mainstream media, in the temporal world, in Hong Kong, where materialism rules? So, I began touching upon living this beauty by taking care of what I eat and drink, what my thoughts and actions are. All of the ongoing personal explorations I expressed either literally or abstractly in a two dimensional presentation, but only because the work that was published was first lived inside of me. Of course, this learning is ongoing, and there is still so much to learn. Surprisingly, I was not fired from my position when I ‘challenged’ conventional ideas of makeup and dressing up – quite the contrary, I had inspired, because truth is inherently universal to all hearts; but if we do not stand for it, what is not truth becomes the norm.
I express my femaleness much more now through clothes and aesthetics. It is not to increase beauty, or hide what I do not feel is perfect, but an honest expression of who I am. I never only express in one style or colour, because that would be too limiting in the expression of what I feel. I respect my body and honour it in tender ways, from choosing a certain neckline, fabric, length, color, print etc; I would not hide myself in a high turtleneck when I feel lovely and wish to express with a V neck dress, but I also would not allow myself to get cold and wear short skirts just because they looked sexy. It is all about feeling how I am that moment and allowing flexibility to truly nurture myself. My little secret in dressing up is, immaculate perfection is not what I am after, but fun (sometimes humour) and harmony is.
It is true that the female body has been represented in many unloving ways by the media, and it is no wonder that so many women only know beauty to be something outside of who they are. Some may associate beauty with being sex objects, others may believe it is just the opposite. Feeling very beauty-full and embracing that lovely-ness, I once wore a sleeveless deep V dress on a beautiful warm day, incidentally having to attend an event in my child’s school. That was how I was truly feeling, and I expressed it as such. It was greeted by many other mothers with kindness and smiles, as they felt that beauty within themselves too. Yet it was also greeted by some with loveless remarks. Was it possible they also knew this beauty to be true, but resisted recognising it in themselves?
The true and genuine beauty of a woman is the love that they hold, and equally express for themselves. With this love, anything that is not true is instantly felt. This love also cannot but feel the connection with every other woman and man. Therefore, if another chooses to express in loveless ways to themselves or to another, there is understanding rather than judgment. And with love, it is not from the other person that we walk away, but from their choice of expression. If someone expresses in greater love for themselves than us, there would be gratitude for inspiration rather than a comparison or judgement.
True beauty is what my soul has always known to be love and joy; it is a harmonious and truthful expression, it is just what it is, nothing more, nothing less, and in-truth, we are all beauty-full.