Fashion

In Pursuit of Greatness: Vanessa Hong of The Haute Pursuit

Say what you will about fashion bloggers and influencers — you probably just haven’t met its OGs. Vanessa Hong of The Haute Pursuit is one that exemplifies style with intellect and good vibes.

After braving a Hong Kong typhoon, waiting through delayed flights and taking a five-hour car ride in the wee hours, Vanessa Hong finally arrives at the Tanjong Jara Resort. It’s completely understandable that one’s exhausted after such a turn of events, but the blogger is determined to get started with work. It’s a rare thing to see someone navigating through the fashion industry with such acute awareness while remaining authentically positive. Hong entered the blogging world in 2005 with her site, The Haute Pursuit, way before the current wave of ubiquitous #ootd Instagram profiles. She has since expanded her content beyond style and fashion to health and wellness, emphasizing that journey through simple means, also launching an online store and getting an E! documentary for her fashion week travels.

We speak to her on everything – content-making, witnessing an era of political fashion, and the constant travelling.

Let's start with your background. Where did you grow up?

My mom is originally from Hong Kong and my dad is Canadian-Chinese. I went to school and university in Canada. I had gone to pre-med with a degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics, then worked in biotechnology. But I was miserable. I just felt really unfulfilled spiritually, creatively, mentally and physically — at every level. I was yearning for something greater because I’ve always wanted to lead a life less ordinary. One day, I just had an awakening in my cubicle and that was when I started my blog. Shortly after, I left and moved to Beijing. That started the travelling circus I call my life.

 

Influencers get a lot of flak, mostly from people who aren’t direct audiences. How do you face that perception, especially when you first started out?

In the very beginning, you don’t get paid and people don’t even give clothes in return. If you dared to ask somebody to pay you for a written article, they would laugh in your face. They would say: “You’re a blogger.” And think that you’re an uneducated girl writing in her parents’ basement. Even if you are writing in their basement, that doesn’t mean that you’re unintelligent. I now work with brands, and they do pay me – and I’m very open about it but those collaborations only happen when I feel like there’s an honest partnership. Do I wear the brand? Do I like what they do? Is the voice right? Is the tone right? I’m not going to do a drive-by post, where I just feature one thing.

 

There are new designers who are actively making their stance on war, feminism, diversity and extremism known. Do you think that’s something that will continue or is simply of-the-moment?

It’s really hard to say, right? I mean my hope is that it continues because we live in a politically-charged world, especially now. When I went to last season’s shows in Paris and especially in New York, a lot of them were making statements. Some were obvious with slogans on T-shirts, some had female power as themes. Unfortunately, fashion has this cliché of being saccharine and inconsequential. I do understand why and, maybe in the grand scheme of things, it’s true. But we also have to recognise that these people reach the masses now with social media. Without social media, would Demna Gvasalia’s work be famous? If he was doing this 15 years ago, taking the reins at Balenciaga or for his own work, would that have had the same impact if that wasn’t for social media?

L'Officiel x Vanessa Hong of The Haute Pursuit

You’re always on the move and have to adapt to new places. How has that shaped your idea of home?

 

It was like that for a long time. Now I try to travel three times, maximum, each month. It’s really taxing on the body and spirit. But I also think most people have a false sense of home because you actually don’t necessarily need a physical space for that. Before I started travelling, my friend who is incredibly wise, told me that home is where the heart is. And that really hit me because he emigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam when he was 10 years old. He’s led a kind of gypsy life since then but he’s the most grounded person I know, and I think that’s because he knows no matter where he is, he’s always going to be home. I think that’s really been an important message in my life and that was before I delved into spirituality.

"Although I do sometimes feel the need to escape fashion, my life, inner life and work are very balanced now."

Photography Joel Low Videography Vadbibes Styling Evon Chng Styling assistant Allysha Nila Hair and makeup RickYang/FAC3 INC using Label M and Urban Decay Photography assistant Alfie Pan Model Vanessa Hong/The Society Management Location Tanjong Jara Resorts

 

Read the full interview in the November 2017 issue of L'Officiel Singapore (out now on newstands and Magzter).

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