Hong Kong Hustle

Suiting up in the luxury capital with Adrien Sauvage

Have suit, will travel.

This seems to be the M.O. of Adrien Sauvage, a globetrotting designer known for his contemporary take on Savile Row tailoring.

Personally photographing his clothes on men encountered during his travels as part of his ongoing “Natives” photo series, Sauvage views these matchups as collaborations: less designer and model, more Andy Warhol and Muhammad Ali.

In these exclusive shots taken on a trip to Hong Kong last Fall, Sauvage documents a day in the life of one of his Natives – who boasts an unexpected day job.

We caught up with the infectiously friendly designer when he was home in London, at work on his upcoming collection.

Let’s talk about the photos you took in Hong Kong. How was your trip?

Hong Kong is a really exceptional place. I had never been to that part of Asia before, and the only way I could describe it is “luxury on crack!” It’s a place where fashion and luxury is so elevated that it’s actually integrated into the lifestyle. And they seem to really embrace it. It’s their way of life – they wake up, and they shop!

Did the city inspire you?

I always look at really strange, bizarre things. Like street signs and interesting words or even backdrops, landscapes. I kind of put a mood board on my computer, and most of the time I never dig it out. But when I get around to it, I’ll use something in a collection much later on, and I’ll be like “Wow, I’m sitting on gems.”

Is photography a part of this process?

Photography is much more about the individual. When I go out, I normally start talking to the natives and coming across interesting people. It’s a challenge, because I’m not going to a city and going to a modeling agency and going “Yo, I’ll have that guy, and I’ll shoot him at two o’clock!” So it’s a bit of a thrill for me. I just did a series in New Zealand, and I ended up hanging out with a Maori shaman! You know? It worked out.

Who’s the man you photographed in Hong Kong?

I met him through a friend of a friend. It always starts like that. I’ll go “Hey, do you know anyone interesting I should meet when I get in town?” And there was a lady there, she was like “You’ve got to meet my friend. He’s a dancer, he’s working in an act at the circus.” We hung out and I said, look, let’s not even do a shoot. Let’s just do a day in the life of you. Run around and take some shots of Hong Kong – your time, your style.

What do you look for in the men you photograph?

I find that they’re unsung heroes. They’re people who I always find are famous within their subcultures, but they’re not famous as in, like, they’re not Kanye West or something like that. But they are celebrities that need to be celebrated, and they have interesting stories to tell.

You also dress major celebrities: basketball players like Dwyane Wade or entertainers like George Lamb and Terry Gilliam.

Celebrities that I work with, I respect what they do or am interested in their work. I think it’s really important to have contemporaries and to work with them, so when we look back on it we can see how we all affected each other. Like the musician, he needs that look. So he focuses on his work, which is his music. If I focus on the clothes, then we celebrate the union of all that.

I think that’s one of the best things about a suit. All kinds of people can wear them.

I don’t even have a certain type of man. I find that it’s a man at different times in his life, and it’s a mood in all of those moments. It’s him let’s say when he’s young and finding out who he is, and experimenting a little bit, down to getting serious, getting a job, smartening up, then getting a bit bored with being smart and wanting something about the weekends. And now with me becoming a dad, I’m thinking, okay, what kind of stuff am I wearing when I feed my baby?

You’ve talked a lot about your “Dress Easy” philosophy, and I’m sure you’re thinking about it while designing your next collection. But what’s the hardest part of dressing easy?

I don’t think there is one! I couldn’t really tell you the hard part, because you’ve made all of the options easy. Obviously you wake up every day and you’re in a different mood. Sometimes you don’t feel that sexy, sometimes you feel really sexy. Today, I feel pretty sexy! If you make your life easy by working it out, those days where you don’t feel sexy aren’t so bad.

Once you find the right pieces, it becomes easy.

I dressed an actress to go down the red carpet. Obviously she has a makeup and hair team, and she has a wardrobe of clothes. But this time, I just came to her hotel room with a suit, shirt, and a tie. And that was dressing easy! Where she would normally be getting ready, she got dressed in 40 minutes. We hung out at her hotel for an hour and a half cause we had nothing to do!

After you finish your collection, what’s the next place you’d like to visit?

I think Nigeria might be in the cards. I’ve been working out there with a store and gallery space. And I really want to go to Brazil. I like those places where there’s a vibe. It’s not a location, it’s more of a mood, it’s more the people. When I get into places like that it makes me come alive.

Is there anything you always bring when traveling?

It sounds so boring… but it would probably be hand cream. I have a meltdown if I don’t have it. And then my camera. I travel pretty light, to be honest!

Those things are important. You’re not going to feel comfortable if your hands are dry.

I’m not going to take a good picture if my hands are dry, either.

Photography by Adrien Sauvage