Have you ever dreamt of starting everything from scratch? When the brothers Philip and Eri Chu decided to leave everything to create their own label together, they didn’t know how far this would lead them. After ten years of distorting and subverting Japanese pop culture’s looks with Ground Zero, they are coming back with a Spring/Summer 2018 collection with “new attitude, new codes, new philosophy” and upcoming projects for Paris’ fashion scene in the pipeline. We talk with Philip, one half of the brand, to see what’s going on.
Hello Ground Zero, who are you?
We are a duo of designers but we are also brothers. I (Philip Chu) graduated from Middlesex University – Fashion Design BA course. Eri graduated from First Institute of Art and Design in Hong Kong. We have very different personalities. Eri is more quiet, inward and pays more attention to details; and I am the opposite: I love talking to people and I’m more outgoing.
What does ‘zero’ mean to you? Nothing or everything?
Actually Ground Zero is a brand name that developed from an old story. I was very young and was working in a graphic company and got fired. Eri was trying to comfort me but he wasn’t doing very well either as he was working in a dead-end job too. We went to a very local restaurant, we talked about it and we decided we shouldn’t work for other people anymore. This is how we decided to start a brand – to document or to remember this bitterness.  We named it Ground Zero as it’s like our starting point and it’s also implying our hopes. This is essentially what ‘zero’ means to us.
However, as time passed by, we modified its meaning.  We see ‘zero’ as something ordinary or down to earth, but you can also play with it to make it extraordinary and unique. Zero actually can be very diverse and has loads of potential and possibilities.
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Your collections find their core inspiration in the decade of the ‘80s in Japan as well as the gold prosperity time in Hong Kong. Would you call it nostalgia?  An homage to the city's colourful past?
I wouldn’t call it nostalgia; I would say it’s a reinterpretation in a Ground Zero way.  But of course, there’s an homage to this golden time of my city.
Could you tell us some key symbols of Hong Kong’s club culture that inspire your work nowadays?
I was a very young kid but my sister would tell us so much about it, that’s why we’ve always had this big fantasy about clubbing. Especially, she told us that she saw Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung – who are Hong Kong pop singers legends.
You are part of the renaissance of this culture’s aesthetic through a new gaze. Who are the other main artists, influencers and fashion designers building Hong Kong’ artistic scene of tomorrow?
I really admire Percy Lau, Issac Lam, and Jourden.
Who is the Ground Zero woman/man?
People who are mischievous with a sense of humour, daring, and born to be different.
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You always play with this second-degree interpretation of fashion. You mix classical conservative pieces with casual and urban garments with irony. Your attitude is also an anti-fashion statement as brands like Neith Nyer, Gypsy Sport or Vêtements could do. Can you tell us more about your very unique creative process of subverting the codes?
The most important element would be pop culture. We love to play with something very well known, something you see and would recognise in a second but which is different at the same time.  For example, our Complex Diva logo – printed on a black T-shirt – comes from the CD (compact disc) logo. We want our audience to have resonance to what they are purchasing.
Even if your style has constantly evolved since you started the brand back in 2008, your signature and DNA has remained the same: irregular-cut silhouettes, patches, and graphic prints. What was the main challenge with the Spring/Summer 2018 collection in order to reinvent the brand once again?
We were thinking of rebuilding the brand in 2018: new attitude, new codes, new philosophy for Ground Zero. For us, the most challenging part was to think about how to design it. We had a lot of ideas but we decided to keep the mischievous impression of the brand and look back to something we were really fascinated by when we were kids.  We will gather our experience and our interests together to rebuild Ground Zero – if we keep the same name.
The last campaign you’ve released for the Spring/Summer 2018 is a Karaoke video made with a collage style in collaboration with Georgia Pendlebury and Ethan Assouline. Can you tell us more about the relationship with the French stylist and video maker? And more widely your link with Paris’ fashion scene?
Georgia is a very inspiring person to work with; she always thinks of something cooler than we could ever do. More importantly, she can translate our ideas and turn them into a very dynamic story, something out of the box. We’re very lucky to have her with us and we’ve become very good friends since we have been working for seven seasons now.
Ethan’s work is very retro in a way, but it's also something I was able to relate to as it reminds me of things I’ve watched while growing up – and with which I was obsessed. It is certainly a beginning for us to get into Paris’ fashion scene as we are also working with French PR and sales now. We hope to do more fun things there very soon!
Your dream collaboration for the future?
We would like to collaborate with something from the everyday life, something everyone has seen, felt or purchased before – such as Haribo.
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