Interview: Douglas Young of GOD

Douglas Young, a trained architect based in HK is the creator of Goods Of Desire (GOD) – one of the most well known furniture/lifestyle brands - a Shanghai Tang with a pinch of tongue in cheek humour. Its inventory includes contemporary furniture, homeware and lifestyle accessories with a contemporary Chinese twist. This year Douglas will be flying down to KL to make a special appearance at KL Design Week10 as one of the speakers for the Typographic Conference. Back in 4 September 2009 when Reebok invited us to HK to experience the Reebok Global Freestyle Stylist Series Party we managed to have a chat the man himself about the Reebok exhibition, GOD and having dinner with Damian Hirst and Matt Damon.

Hello Douglas! It’s a pleasure to meet you. So, how long have you been a photographer?
I’ve always liked photography, but I’m not a photographer. I run this company called GOD (Goods of Desire), but I’m an architect by training so people know me more as a designer.

Tell me more about GOD.
It’s first and foremost a Hong Kong brand. I think there are a lot of aspects about Hong Kong that are very special but sometimes they’re not presented in a way that is modern or cool. So I decided to make things that are local and cool (laughs). So that’s GOD’s “quest”. I suppose you can see the same thing running through ‘Hail Heritage’. I wanted to present a very local image and yet fun.

What camera equipment did you use?
Believe it or not I used a small, basic digital camera because I needed something that was very portable because everyone was dancing away so I actually had to move really fast in order to capture the moment. Something light and handy so I could dance around with them! So again, it is very primitive equipment compared to professional photographers. I used regular film rather than digital stuff so that every frame doesn’t quite match. Back in the 80s we didn’t have that technology, nowadays you can use computers to make everything perfect. I think if you do that you lose the edginess. That is what I think Freestyle is all about – doing things as you like and being yourself.

How did you choose your locations?
I was conscious of the fact that the pictures had to travel to Paris, London, and Munich. Because a lot of foreigners think that Hong Kong is about sailboats, fishing junks and Chinese operas, I wanted to avoid all so we (and Davena Mok) decided that these final 4 scenes would best repreesent HK in the way that is local yet recognizable to foreigners. Karaokeing and taking the ferry, these are the things genuine Hong Kong people do.

One of the locations you use don the shoot was demolished? How do you feel about that?
We didn’t know if we were going to use that location in the beginning but after we heard that it was going to be demolished, if we didn’t shoot there by next week it was going to be too late. It’s sad come to think of it. We tend to take a lot for granted and that things are going to be there forever. Before you know it, its gone. That’s the downside of living in Asia. The upside is that you always get variety because things keep on changing, but the downside is that you lose a lot as well.

Define your style.
I’m always casual. If I can help it I’ll always be in shorts and tees, especially in this weather. I wouldn’t call myself a socialist but I hate class systems and elitism. Idealist-hopeless romantic maybe? Everyone should wear whatever they want.

Own a lot of sneakers?
Oh I have a lot. What I’m wearing now are my Reeboks x Basquiat. I think they’re next year’s. I like the idea of it being unique. If I were to spend a lot of money on clothing products, I want it to be quite special. It’s not always the case since luxury goods are so in demand, everyone ends up owning the same thing.

Which are your favourite Freestyles?
Unfortunately none of them are for men but I love the Wonder Woman ones.

Name four living people would you like to have dinner with?
(Long pause) I’m limited to just four? I would like to have dinner with Matt Damon because I am a big fan of The Bourne Identity series. Madonna because I would like to ask her what her secret is to staying young and to be able to still be relevant for generations already. The leaders of China because China is going to be a major force and I would like to know more about their cultural policies. How do we have a new China that won’t become just a copy of the West? And Damien Hirst, he’s an artist yet he’s not. He’s really changed the medium of art from painting on canvases to producing products with marketing hype.

What institution is in most need of change in Hong Kong?
Asians have a very conservative mindset by nature. They don’t like complication, they don’t like to be cutting edge and they like to abide by the rules – that’s taught in our education. We are taught to do things according to conventional means. We should break rules and break boundaries. Our education needs to change.

GOD sells mooncakes. How come nobody’s ever thought about it? Brilliant idea!
Mooncakes are an Asian tradition and with a lot of our other Asian traditions they’re rarely updated so for us its old fashioned. We thought we should be crazy enough to change it! “Moon” as in the bum is the same meaning throughout the West and the East, so we thought to try out this happy coincidence. The hard part was finding somebody who would actually make the moulds so I ended up having to make them myself. As they say “Inspiration is only 5% of the work, the rest is perspiration.”

If GOD decided to make fortune cookies, what message would you stick in it?
“Don’t believe in superstitions, or this message.”

Check out GOD at www.god.com.hk. To check out what we were up to in HK check out our Reebok Freestyle reports Part1, Part2 and Part3 here!