Interview with Douglas Young: 'I like to shock'
Love him or hate him, everyone knows Douglas Young. The founder of lifestyle brand and boutique Goods of Desire (G.O.D.)., Young has successfully repackaged visuals from Hong Kong heritage into kitsch furniture, fashion bags, and notebooks and he's won his share of both fans and critics.
A self-proclaimed "indigenous Hong Kong person", Young is often seen around town with a farmer's hat and straw bag, but that doesn't mean he's low-profile.
His designs are purposefully provocative, such as mooncakes shaped like bums, and he garnered local street cred with his tongue-in-cheek-profanity slogan "Delay No More" splashed on T-shirts. In 2007, he irked the police by printing another set of T-shirts with a local triad gang name -- so much so he was arrested.
Young recently unveiled two art installations at DETOUR on the theme of the Kowloon Walled City: Room 414 is a square block inside a darkened square room, the only way around the square block is to squeeze through a foot-wide space between it and the wall; West Kowloon Walled City is the same block structure placed outside with one facade replaced by an installation of a public toilet.
We caught up with Young to chat about his new art and creating Hong Kong's cultural identity, while squatting on the toilets, kinda like the Romans did.
CNNGo: Tell us about your obsession with Kowloon Walled City.
In Hong Kong, we often question, do we have culture? Do we have anything local? I think it's very dangerous. — Douglas Young, designer
For me, it's about a community's resistance against the outside world. The Kowloon Walled City was the last place in Hong Kong where there was no police, no colonialists, and no Communists. Nobody had any influence over this community. I just wanted to remind Hong Kong people that we should develop some kind of resistance against all that's outside.
As much as we become modern, I think Hong Kong's at risk of losing our local culture, which is very dangerous. I think sometimes we confuse modernism with progress. There should be a balance of East and West to make Hong Kong unique, we're too susceptible to just welcoming everything that's foreign and thinking that it's better than local. That's not healthy.
CNNGo: So should we build a wall?
Why is it that we don't even recognize this ourselves? Are we so ashamed of our roots and our past? By doing this piece, I'm also trying to right that wrong because I feel myself as an indigenous Hong Kong person.
CNNGo: Room 414 and West Kowloon Walled City are essentially the same structure, but in different settings?
CNNGo: How do you incorporate aspects of Hong Kong heritage into all your works?
CNNGo: Is your approach different when designing installations as opposed to designing for G.O.D.?
CNNGo: Sometimes it's too successful though, like when you were arrested in 2007 for the 14K T-shirts.
CNNGo: How do you get inspired in our concrete jungle?
CNNGo: What's in the future for Douglas Young?
You think of places like Paris, London, and New York -- the people there are very confident about who they are, to the effect that they feel pride. Whereas in Hong Kong, we often question do we have culture? Do we have anything local? I think it's very dangerous. It's not that we don't have culture in Hong Kong, it's just that we lack concrete definition. We lack ... maybe it's a book? A set of definitions? Something we can really grab hold of and say "now this is Hong Kong culture, this is us." For the moment, it's just a feeling.
See our listing for Douglas Young's G.O.D.