Fresh off the plane from a week at Milan Moda Uomo, where he spent his days between shows and dinners with the likes of Sylvia Fendi, Daniel Lee and Isabel Marant, and then a couple days in Beijing tending to his various businesses, Oscar Wang arrives for our shoot on a Saturday morning in Hong Kong, on time, dressed discreetly in a beanie and trench coat, and ready to deliver. It’s difficult to imagine that Wang, all of 29 years of age, who now juggles a diversified portfolio of agency work, talent management, creative branding, a club in Beijing and restaurants in Shanghai, didn’t happen on his career until quite recently.
Known for most of his life as “the son of actress and acclaimed director Sylvia Chang”, Wang’s search for what he wanted to do took a little time. “I wasn’t an academically gifted student,” he says, laughing. Yet even at an early age and despite poor grades, Wang knew in the back of his mind that he wanted to be a businessman – and possessed an independence of spirit that allowed him to forge a path of his own choosing. After what he describes as a particularly gruelling time studying at LaSalle, one of the best local boys’ schools in Hong Kong, Wang’s parents decided to move him to Yew Chung International School, where the academic rigour was less intense for both mother and son.
“I went there and life was much easier,” Wang says. “I was considered academically gifted at Yew Chung for three years. People thought I was a genius because it was so intense at LaSalle that my grades were amazing, I was so ahead. I didn’t have to study or anything. But it started showing after grade five.”
t which point, Wang took it upon himself to apply for boarding school at Cheltenham in England – and to both his and his parents’ surprise, he got in. The note of pride is evident even now in Sylvia Chang’s tone when she recalls her son’s proactiveness. “When he reached his early teenage years, Oscar began to focus a lot on his peer group, and it was around then that he decided he wanted to go to boarding school. So, I said to him, ‘If you can apply and get in, then you can go.’ And he applied and got in!”
For Wang, going to boarding school in England was a way for him to escape Hong Kong and its pressures, “I just thought Hong Kong was a little tiring,” says Wang when asked why he wanted to leave. It’s not necessarily surprising, given Wang’s background as the son of one of Hong Kong, Taiwan and China’s most celebrated directors of film, stage and television.
Of this, his mother says, “In the beginning, he wouldn’t tell anybody that I was his son. He didn’t like that. He didn’t want people to know him only as my son. He wanted people to know him for who he is. And I’d say to him, ‘Oscar, you have to accept the fact that I am your mother. And being an actor or a celebrity or whatever they call it is a fact. You cannot just deny it. It’s something you have to live with.
“As he’s grown up, he’s come to realise that it’s OK, because he now has confidence and has found something he’s good at, something for which people love him, like him, accept and admire him for, as Oscar Wang. And people now recognise him for his work, rather than simply as my son.”
“I can’t hide from it,” says Wang. “I tried to hide but that’s how people like to introduce me, so I’m used to it. I think that as long as I’m doing something good in life, there’s no shame in it. You can really work on your own path and now a lot of people call her ‘Oscar’s mother’, so it’s shifted in some sense.”
But Wang does credit his work ethic to his mother. “Her main influence on me was that of hard work,” Wang says. “When it comes to creativity, the details that she focuses on, what she’s trying to portray in a film, all of that she says has to come from the soul. It’s always about portraying the truth to an audience. It can be through any medium, in any shape and form, but it always has to be truthful.”
Wang was made to go out and work from a young age. “I always worked every summer and Christmas. My parents sent me to my aunt’s garment factory in Thailand when I was a kid, where we’d make T-shirts for big brands. I was quite young, so I didn’t really know what was going on, but I found it really fun. I’d tag the clothes and feel good because I knew I was earning money doing it.
“I also worked as a bell boy at the Grand Hyatt. I’ve worked at streetwear stores and was a personal assistant in Taipei. Usually it was a month or two, but working hard came easily to me. Being a bell boy was quite interesting, though, because it was in Hong Kong and I’d get recognised by uncles and aunties who’d tip me pretty well.”
Wang ultimately chose to attend the Chelsea College of Arts because of his gift in sculpture, a talent his mother only discovered when she saw one of his school exhibitions. “He was always very good at drawing doodles and I knew he had good taste, but I never really knew how good he was or what aspect of art he was talented in until he was in high school – and I saw that he’d created a sculpture,” says Chang. “I was amazed. Even in high school, the teachers told me that the only thing he could sit down, concentrate on and enjoy doing was art.
“So I then tried to persuade and encourage him to become a sculptor, but he refused!” she says, letting out a mirthful belly laugh.
For Wang, it was a period of soul searching. “I stopped sculpting when I reached Chelsea College of Arts,” Wang says. “I did the foundation course in the first year, where you’re encouraged to figure out your path, and I was really bad at that, so life became really party-driven and I figured I’d chill out and be a fine artist.
“Then one day, a tutor said to me, ‘Hey your grades are really bad. You should really figure something out that will make you more driven in life, something with some structure.’ So I chose interior spatial design, because there are deadlines and you had to pass your course according to a rubric. So I began shifting away from fine art and into design.”
From there Wang applied for an internship at the studio of Irish designer David Collins, where he was exposed to projects the firm was working on with Alexander McQueen, the Ritz Carlton and properties in the Arabian Gulf.
“It opened up my world in terms of how everything works differently for each client and how to adjust designs to suit specific requests. They also did a bit of furniture and small design pieces here and there, which really inspired me in terms of the breadth of creativity that was allowed in the luxury sector.”
Once the internship was complete, Wang intuited that a move to Shanghai would be his next step. “I felt that if I didn’t go back to China, I’d regret it in the future, to not have utilised our strength right now as such a powerful country,” Wang explains. “I meet everybody from around the world in Shanghai. They’re all somebody back in Europe and the world, but when they’re in Shanghai, they’re kind of in your territory and they’re willing to spend more time to understand you.” Initially Wang set up his own interior-design studio but two years later, in 2015, Apple acquired Beats by Dre and for a long time was looking for celebrities to feature in a campaign for China, but to no avail. Word reached them that Wang could help and a few phone calls later, Apple had its campaign faces. “My partner and I are well connected in the entertainment industry, due to our backgrounds, so we made it happen. And suddenly we realised, ‘Oh this is interesting.’ We didn’t realise this was a business – connecting celebrities with brands – and we started doing it more and more,” Wang explains.
“Basically every campaign, campaign shoot, spokesperson and face of a product launch was arranged by us. We started from there and slowly became an agency connecting brands with artists. Slowly we realised that not only did international brands need talent, but so too did national ones. Now we do KFC, Pizza Hut, Proctor & Gamble and even Unilever.”
From there, because Wang’s firm also handled payments for talent, he diversified and began managing talent. “We started with Natasha Liu, because she had a unique look and she could fight. That was how it started,” Wang says.
“Now, we have a supermodel and a young boy who’s still in training, but he’s doing more acting and a bit of singing. We’ve also signed on Kevin Hart, to help with his social platforms, and we’ve started trying to figure out and strategise how to bring Western talent into China.”
Due to sustained success, Wang closed down his design studio in order to focus solely on growing the business. But almost as soon as he did so, Fendi came knocking with a design project to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Peekaboo bag. Wang was invited alongside six other artists to design a special-edition Peekaboo, and has since become a firm collaborator with the Italian fashion house. This February, he’s launching Chinese New Year FenDidi animations alongside an installation in Taipei.
It’s a busy start to the year for Wang, who takes a frenetic schedule and constantly moving parts in his stride with a soft-spoken and calm demeanour. In between shooting his Prestige cover and the launch of the installation, he’s to fly back to Shanghai to check on his new ramen restaurant and oversee new flavours for Joe’s Pizza, a franchise he licensed from the New York original. How does he do it? “Just do it, don’t waste time and be curious,” Wang says.
For someone who insists that his academic career wasn’t spectacular by any stretch, Wang is now an avid reader. “I’m more conscious now, because there are so many elements of my business that can be affected by what happens around the world and I have a lot of partners who are well versed in what they do and are constantly sharing knowledge.
“Given that I’m in such a great position in terms of the creative businesses, as well as my other businesses, I need to upgrade myself so that when conversations happen, discussions are more fruitful – and being informed in an exchange really comes off better when you also understand what they’re talking about. That way, when you come in with your unique spin, people are guaranteed to love it. At the end of the day, we just want to make something exciting happen.”
Photography Karl Lam
Art Direction Sepfry Ng
Styling Zaneta Cheng
Hair and Make-up Kidd Sun
Photography Assistant West Ng
Styling Assistant Lau Bo