Fashion Designer and DJ Tedman Lee Shares His Style and Creative Story
July 27, 2023
Tedman Lee is a figure in Hong Kong’s expansive creative scene, reinventing what it means to be cool and fresh in the city.
Hosting many titles under his name, the fashion designer and DJ is a founder of creative agency Triple Happiness Club, hosting parties in Hong Kong, promoting the fusion of Cantopop with trap, house, hip-hop, and founder of fashion label The Private Label.
With his DJing and fashion curation, each platform is fused with elements of the east and west. The Private Label is a prime label that brings the style of kung fu to the western, modern fashion space and climate of Asia. We speak to Tedman about his influence on Hong Kong’s scene in music and fashion, and how the creative mogul found his juices.
On growing up in Ohio as a young Hong Konger
"I was born and raised in Hong Kong, but I moved to the U.S. at 10 years old, Ohio, the middle of nowhere. Living in the suburbs of Columbus, I didn’t know there was a scene until I was a teen. I discovered record stores when I was younger, kicking off my interest in all types of music, Art, and museums - I became interested in [all] that. Being stuck in this ‘meme state’ pushed me to discover more.
I stayed in Columbus for college with my scholarship. It was only until I met friends from Cincinnati and Cleveland that I would discover the Ohio party scene. I became a resident DJ in clubs across the three cities. We were one of the few Hong Kongers, probably about 500 living in Ohio. I was happy I still spoke [Cantonese] and didn’t get whitewashed."
On a return to Hong Kong and kickstarting an advertising career
"My family returned to the city during the financial crash. In my youth, fashion was a passion, but advertising drew me to a career. I grew up watching football commercials from Nike, oh, those videos were sick!
I used to chill at this store called Milk Bar in Ohio, [known for] hosting parties and great clothes. One day, this boutique had a Chinese guy called John Jay come into the store, [he was] creative director for an agency called Wieden+Kennedy, and now global creative president at Uniqlo.
He was in town shooting a commercial with LeBron James, and my friend pitched my story to him as I was looking to break into the industry. One thing led to another, and I got to gain experience at their Shanghai office.
Hong Kong’s advertising space was very industrial and corporate, running local campaigns for global firms. It wasn’t fun, I lasted two years and was out of there. I started my own creative agency with my band mates, and that’s how the fun began!"
On why he created his creative agency, hehehe, and invigorating Hong Kong’s street culture
"I co-founded hehehe with two friends in 2012, handling a range of creative campaigns, conceptualizing, conceiving projects to bring big fashion and shoe labels to the local market, and film promos for local celebrities and singers.
Social media just began taking hold in Hong Kong, and we took advantage of this. We were lucky as one of the first guys coming in with a different mentality. We started directing videos and local projects for Nike, Converse, Vans, Adidas, COS, Timberland, YSL, and more.
We directed and clothed singers in music videos for Eason Chan, Jun Kung, and Pakho Chau.
The creative industry here in Hong Kong was still very conventional when we began. We wanted to use many colours and Western influences in our videos to promote great street fashion and music culture to Hong Kong."
On DJing in Hong Kong and new creative directions
"Our company started growing in the early 2010s, and we needed to hire more people. Our projects became monotonous, as we needed to take on more commercial jobs. Eventually, I stopped it.
I began DJing at local parties in the city and became known as the fashion DJ figure here. When I created a project for an artist or company, no one would be perceptive towards my work and how well I did. [When I was] DJing and hosting parties, it was great to see how people react in real time.
During that time, in the mid 2010s, I began managing local Hong Kong rapper Young Queenz and touring with him.
My interest in clothing, specifically creating a brand, was about finding a new creative outlet. I created The Private Label when I didn’t want people to know I was starting it. I wanted to create a social experiment. Would people receive my clothes, as well as they loved my DJing?"
On founding The Private Label and exploring east-meets-west clothing influences
"I began creating pieces blending kung fu clothing with Chinese-style buttons and form. I was inspired with the design when I saw a tourist on the MTR wear a sh*tty Chinese shirt from Temple Street. If the fit was nicer, it would work. This became a staple piece where you can wear in different occasions.
The first line was five designs, selling them online. It was only after my third collection that I announced to friends that The Private Label was mine!
I was inspired by my Ohio days watching a ton of MTV, new metal, and hip-hop. Baggy fits, oversized tees, NBA jerseys. If I wore those pants and shirts in that style, as a short guy, it would sag to the floor. It was always my dream to tailor pieces that I could wear. I wanted to also stay consistent: you can wear this brand to a business meeting or a party.
I launched the preview of our summer collection in March in Thailand."
On restarting his creative and design journey with Triple Happiness Club
"I wanted to keep the spirit alive, blending fashion and music in Hong Kong. I created Triple Happiness Club in 2016. I host monthly trap parties, create visuals for local brands, and consult for fashion brands."
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