Ermenegildo Zegna celebrates the spirit of four young Hong Kong leaders, visionaries who utilise their unique talents in the service of a greater cause, from conservation to art. Here they reflect on their endeavours
Chao has dedicated the last 10 years to China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. His Orochen Cultural Heritage Preservation Project, formed in 2005, remains the most comprehensive initiative to revive the endangered heritage of the indigenous Orochen people.
He’s the first to dismiss the idea that he has achieved any kind of success. “There is a Greek philosophy, ‘Never judge a man happy until the day he is dead.’ I think success should be judged, as they did in ancient China, after a man passes away,” he says. “Success outlives a person. A person could live and die for a dream yet never see it accomplished, but he could be an inspiration and set an example for people to follow,” he says.
Exceptional leaders need to fight to preserve difference, he says. “The ability to break through national, racial, cultural, ethnic and linguistic barriers is very, very important,” he says, and can be born of surprising circumstances, like Chao’s own chief inspiration, Bruce Lee. “He revolutionised the way people around the world perceived Chinese people and civilisation.”
Sean Lee Davies
Artist / Activist and Broadcaster
The multitalented Sean Lee Davies isn’t short on accomplishments. He describes success as much like climbing a mountain. “Whenever you finish climbing one, there’s another one to climb,” he says.
As an environmentalist and documenter he’s climbed actual mountains, as well as getting up close to the elephants, rhinos, tigers and other animals on the brink of extinction – often due to human foul play – that he works to save. The world’s illegal wildlife trade, he says, is second only to its illegal narcotics trade. “That must stop.”
Photo work has taken him on extraordinary adventures, and into contact with extraordinary individuals. It’s these opportunities, to capture and present, to travel and roam, that have given him the kind of global perspective he thinks is essential in today’s strong leaders. “There has to be exposure to the many facets of this world,” he says.
Simon Birch’s paintings have raised millions for charity, though he still defines himself as a struggling artist. “As you progress, you realise how far you still have to go, how small and insignificant you are,” he says.
Cancer survivor Birch works regularly with Hong Kong Cancer Fund and CancerCare, raising money and advising sufferers, though he’s equally as generous with artists in the community. He’d like also to work with underprivileged youth and women’s groups. “The move to give is instinctual,” says Birch. “As soon as I started to do well, my next thought was, ‘How can I pass this on, how can I share this?’ If you’re at a party and you are the only one dancing, that’s no fun.”
Perhaps this is why the British-born, Hong Kong-settled artist rates empathy as the number-one trait today’s leaders should display. “We need people in power who understand people from top to bottom,” he says. In lieu of this, caring friends can take you far, as the artist knows through personal experience. “Real quality of life is keeping yourself occupied with something you really believe in. The other piece of success is about love – that network of friends I’ve managed to hold on to over the years, who still love me, for me.”
Entrepreneur and Green Advocate
In considering his leadership style, David Yeung looks to his father. “He was a successful entrepreneur and an inspiring leader,” says Yeung, “a creative visionary who had a knack for taking a big problem and simplifying it.”
Yeung, managing director of Fortune Park and a chairman of Visual Culture, recently emulated this same skill on a decidedly modern-age issue, co-founding the social enterprise Green Mondays in 2012. Now more than 1,000 Hong Kong restaurants work with him to promote a healthier diet through meat-free menus each Monday. “As entrepreneurs we have some talents and resources available to us. Our social responsibility is how we deploy these resources,” says Yeung, a vegetarian.
No leader can dazzle if they’re obsessed simply with the bottom line. “If we don’t act consciously, we’ll be looking at bearing that consequence in the very near future,” says Yeung, who remains unconcerned about the notion of success. Instead, the ideal, he says, is life’s journey. “It’s about maximising the meaning of life, and helping and benefitting as many people as possible.”
PHOTOGRAPHY KARL CHIU
ART DIRECTION GORDON LAM
MAKE-UP AND HAIR AMY LEE AND DEEP CHOI
STYLING ASSISTANTS AMBER CHOY AND SHEENA KHEMANEY
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