We began with the intention to inspire consciousness in our everyday, to cultivate a culture that encourages others to uncover where and why something is made. The Connected Clothing series spotlights on different individuals – why they wear what they wear and the significance behind their choices.
Thierry Chow is a Feng Shui master based in Hong Kong. In a male-dominated industry, Feng Shui typically holds a more traditional perception but her approach comes from an intention rooted in creativity and appreciation for design – as emphasized by her background in art. Having studied art illustration during her time in Canada, she moved to Hong Kong to pursue a career in art and design. 8 years ago, she made the decision to do a Feng Shui apprenticeship under her father Chow Hon Ming, who’s a renowned Feng Shui master. As a Feng Shui master and consultant, she believes in its influence in the everyday, especially in something as personal as the clothes we wear.
How did your journey with Feng Shui begin?
I grew up in Hong Kong and stayed here till I was 10, and I wasn’t very good in school, not in the conventional ways, and that really pushed me to focus on art from a very young age. In school, I was always daydreaming; I loved fashion, art, and design and so I really focused on that in university. It was something I held on to that made me feel more confident. When I graduated and came back to Hong Kong, I was certain I would find a job related to art. I worked for a movie director at one point, worked in a design studio, and even taught art for a couple of years and I was so sure that something great would happen.
But one day it hit me and I realized, I’m pretty depressed. I felt like there was this heavy sense of pressure and I wasn’t able to create what I wanted to in terms of my art. It came to the point where I was like either I do something about this and turn my life around or I just stay depressed. So one day I had dinner with my dad and there was a voice in my head that was like “I think Feng Shui is the answer”. It took me by surprise because even though my dad was a Feng Shui master my whole life, it never was a possibility for me and it wasn’t on my radar at all. It never came up. When that happened I was so shocked but it also felt so right and I decided to go for it. Immediately, I asked if I could learn Feng Shui from him and he said of course – it’s his daughter carrying on what he knows and he was more than happy to share that with me. That was about 8 years ago? Since then I never stopped.
My thinking was that Feng Shui held the potential and room for me to grow as a creative person. For the first time in my life it clicked and I knew this is it, I can put my creativity into this. That’s how I started. It’s pretty crazy, I never really thought about it or had any interest growing up. It was always separate and removed from me because it was my dad’s and I thought it was just a superstition limited to a more traditional and older generation – and I never tried to understand it. I was so close-minded, even though he was my dad, that I was stuck in this box and never really realized it fully until I stepped out and explored it. Feng Shui allowed me to explore and expand my whole world.
Coming from an art and design background, how do you bring that to your approach with Feng Shui, which can feel more rigid and traditional?
That’s the thing, my first impressions of Feng Shui was that it’s very traditional – which is something to honour and appreciate on its own, but there wasn’t anyone really putting designs element into it. This was something I kept learning along the way too: how do I keep the rich culture and tradition of Feng Shui while adding more fun and creativity to it? It’s been a journey working with that for the last 8 years.
One of the most impactful things for me is coming to see that everything is about the environment. The base of Feng Shui stands on the environment, the 5 elements, yin and yang, which can sound very magical when you look at it, but when you interpret it in a modern day context it’s all just about balance. Everything is made out of 5 elements, which blew my mind when I realized that everything comes from wood, fire, earth, metal, and water – it’s like the light went on. That allowed me to understand first of all, that it’s not a superstition. For me, superstitions can be anything you don’t understand, a blind belief that you follow. Knowing the 5 elements removed any suspicion or doubt in me, because it’s something so physical around us and if we know how to arrange these things, it can really affect us. It has nothing to do with religion or belief, it’s just a way of living.
How does your Feng Shui practice affect your relationship with your clothes?
3 years ago, I decided I was going to incorporate fashion into my practice because it was something I felt very passionate about and I wanted to teach people to be more aware of what they wear and how they could use Feng Shui to personalize their outfits. It was also a way for me to bring more awareness to the option of second hand clothing, and share that it’s not as it is perceived. It’s a thin line to be sensitive of cultural beliefs when you’re educating them on a different way of seeing.
For me, I realized I dressed a certain way in my journeys. When I was depressed I dressed in dull colours, and nowadays I lean towards colours. I feel connected to brighter colours, but it really is just a whole journey of finding out who you are and what you wear. I really believe that what you wear is a reflection of who you are and what your journey is.
What’s the intention behind shopping for second hand clothing?
I was influenced by my time in Canada. I was there for 13 years; Windsor first, then I moved closer to Toronto for school, then I was nearby the Oakville area which is where I met my husband. Shopping for second hand clothing was something I picked up in university, mostly because everyone there was really into it. The reason I love shopping for second hand clothing is twofold; I like that second hand clothing is eco-friendly, it’s an existing option and you’re buying what’s already been produced and loved. And I love the hunt, going through racks of items only to come across one piece you know you’ll love and wear – it’s a very rewarding feeling. Most of the time with second hand clothing the pieces are unique. With big chain stores because it’s massively produced, everyone’s wearing the same thing, and for me I just love the individuality and identity you get in a vintage or unique piece. That’s not to say I don’t buy from big chain stores though, I love the dichotomy of mixing and matching the two.
When I came back to Hong Kong I realized there wasn’t many choices for second hand clothing here. There’s a growing number, The Hula is a new platform that’s recently come up and there are a couple of second hand clothing stores if you know where to look. But of course, because there’s not enough people buying second hand clothing here, there’s not a lot of options. I’ve found that Etsy is an alternative to that though, it’s so accessible and convenient.
There’s this mindset in the Chinese culture whereby there’s a lot of apprehension towards second hand clothing because the idea is that it’s dirty, and because you don’t know its provenance you don’t know where it has been. As a Feng Shui master, what do you think of that, and does it affect your approach with second hand clothing?
Personally I’ve never felt that was an issue. It’s a question I get a lot because I do Feng Shui and they ask me about it to see if I care more about it because of my background but for me I really just go by feeling. Usually if I feel like something really speaks to me, then I’ll buy it – regardless of its origin. My parents never say anything about it but I have friends who won’t buy second hand stuff because their parents would freak out for that very reason. I like to encourage people to do it though. For me, I think it is just a perception rooted in fear and when we encourage that belief it just expands to more misunderstanding and ignorance. Second hand clothing is definitely something that’ll take Hong Kong some time to see the value in and move towards.
Tell me more about your closet.
It’s very messy. I try to clean it but usually it’ll just be a pile of stuff. It’s an interesting mix and match of different colours and fabrics, and it’s somewhere that I love to go to everyday. I just love it, even looking at it makes me so happy, which is why I have it out in the open.
What is your personal style and how has that evolved over time?
I would say quirky, fun, and electric. The last one’s a word that people use a lot to describe me. I really like mixing and matching all things colourful, I think it really represents who I am inside too because all these things are what I love about life – quirky, fun, and electric.
Is there a certain way you dress with your Feng Shui consultations versus your everyday life?
I struggled quite a bit for the first 2 years when I was just starting, I wasn’t very confident yet and there was a lot of pressure to dress a certain way as a Feng Shui consultant. You should look traditional, your hair should be ‘normal’. Typical Feng Shui outfits are usually suits, very formal matching two pieces, other Feng Shui masters usually stick to one silhouette and just alternate in different colours. Some people think you have to dress in Chinese style clothing like mandarin collars. But I came to realize that this way of dressing was not me, and finally in the last 2 years I really found what I’m comfortable with as a person and in my style. When I go for consultations now I just dress the way I feel and intentionally choose not to dress very differently from my usual attire.
If your house is on fire, what are the five pieces you would save – even if it meant running back into a burning house?
All of my vintage Kimonos. I got most of them in Japan and some from Etsy in second hand shops, but that would be the bulk of it. If there was room for more, then I’d take this Emilio Pucci dress I love and a few things I got second hand.
Thierry Chow is a Feng Shui master and consultant based in Hong Kong. Having a background in art illustration and an affinity for all things creative, she holds a more modern approach to the traditional practice of Feng Shui. Find her on IG here.