Luminary : Ethan Chu Pt. One

July 3 2017
From JB, Melbourne and Spreading Wings All Over The Region 
 
Picking the first profile to grace the opening of ‘Luminary’ section is easy. Since Crossover hailed from the street of JB, it was best to do with our long-time friend from Streething, Ethan Chu, who is also our fellow homeboy. He was there in JB when street culture primarily initiated, took place and while he had went out being the most sought-after stylists in South East Asia, homeboy still maintained his edge for the street.
 
The 38-years old came to Crossover flagship store in Johor, all ready to open up to us wearing red footie jersey, with dark wide leg pants and an extra long belt to accessorize, making beeline in his comfortable beaters sneakers. Approaching Ethan is a breeze, he is more than willing to share on his share of wisdom. Check out what he had to say about the street, styling, generations and loads of his personal updates since his 2015’s interview with YAA SUI here.



Thoughts on JB Street scene, From the Past to Recent and Your Hope On It :
I am not in JB regularly, not sure how it has evolved but it gets nicer development, with nicer malls, roads, better transportation. When it comes to street scene, back in the days, youth tried to find what they wanted for their future. Some will venture into art, fashion, hair, music hence a lot of passionate people loitering,or in Malaysia we call it “lepak”, in weekend with schoolmates. Everyone trying to be someone recognized. Punk culture, heavy metal kids, all dressed-up, skater boys skating, guys in record store making mixtapes, boys in arcade games cosplaying. These days we see lesser of those. World has changed, everything is more comfortable, youth dressed nicely. It’s a little pity when I think of it bcs the culture is slowly dying. A lot of the passionate work now remains just as a dream. I would like a lot more like this to be alive again. With better resources now, we can have better skate park, hub for artistic people, younger artists to start getting alternative, artistic lessons earlier. Unlike kids back in my days, we used to just figure things out by our own.

How did you find your way into styling for Streething?
It is out of no choice. I’m born into typical Chinese family in JB. In JB we don't have role model like fashion designer, stylists or the likes to it and the only thing we know back then that connects with fashion are retail works. Fashion, is a big no-no in my younger days. I compromised at first, I did all the the things I should as a son. Deep inside though, I know this is not what  want to do, I don't want to go to office wearing suit and tie. I need to have my tats and hairstyle.

I was in Melbourne for high school bcs my aunt is super strict, I was a kind of a rebel when I was a student in JB so my mom sent me to her. I have no friends there so I became a lot more decent, also realizing my parents paid so much for my education and the need for me to utilize my opportunity of studying and then, I get to enter one of the top Uni in Melbourne. And then after a year of studying, I said to myself no, this is not what I wanted to do. I tried to talk to my parents and of course, they’re heartbroken and are against it. Out of my rebel self, I’ve enrolled myself to a very cheap fashion institute in KL, pack my bags to KL secretly. Its the thing I really wanted to do : fashion.

My parents found out and were having a fit! Did I mention I don’t know how wide of a job the fashion industry could have me back then? Its always fashion design or fashion marketing, that's it. So I enrolled into fashion designing course and around a year or so, something terrible happened; my dad is diagnosed of cancer. Because of the financial situation I dropped out.  And I started working.

I don't have anything at that time; no certificate, sewing skills, drawing design etc. The only thing that I know, I’m being recognized by the way I dressed. So I figured out fashion styling. I went around, asking friends around and that's when I approach fashion magazine, started working as assistant for an established fashion stylist. Victor Goh. I learnt how broad of a spectrum fashion is from him. It's just not styling, it could be merchandising, choreography, organizing fashion show etc. and that was the moment when I wasn't that scared anymore. As long as I try to learn, the opportunities is out there for me to grab.

I collected my portfolio in my assisting days from everything including from productions (Drama, Commercials). That's when I got interested in production, and began to learn more. But because of my qualification, I am unable to apply a job in advertising firm. It remains as a sideline. Then I stumbled upon Streething, my current company. They are doing street style which I like and there's not enough website like this kind. I get to work with people like skater boy and graffiti artists instead of high fashion. High fashion is nice and glamorous but to work on it for 24/7 are not for me. So I work with the website and I get to learn a lot, website, writing, event management, shooting. And best part of it is to meet street figure from all over the region. You don’t know who you’re gonna meet. It could be grafitti artist or some well-known sneakerhead.

Over the year, besides managing website, writing and meeting people, I thought that we need to document all these findings. “Why don’t we do our own production?” I said, and when we know it, within 2-3 years, we focused a lot on videography.  encyclopedia, compilation, archive of these Malaysian street figure so people who tried to recall, stumbled onto someone awesome, can find back in this encyclopedia or a bible, that I prefer to call. I also want the street to built and the figure living within it could shine. We should grow hand in hand. “Why don’t we advertise them?” I said. So we did. Within these 2-3 years things get weird. Brands came in telling us how they liked the way we’re documenting. We slowly ventured into advertising and suddenly, I am put as Creative Director.


Your favorite & loathed part as a stylist back then?
Favorite is, you always hang around with beautiful clothes and people. You get to the first look at it before it goes to the market. I think the bad part is not as glamorous as people think it is. You don't see the part where, when you need to shoot 6 pages of fashion editorial post, When you tied down by the concept, when they actually look into the market, all the things that you visualized (but) they don't have the product for it. For example, I want to shoot a punk issue, but when i go outside there's no punk clothing. Only t-shirt and jeans. The sourcing plays really important role. On the shoot day, things can go really wrong. Maybe it didn't fit the model, photographer suddenly told you the color doesn't work or if celebs reject your ‘baju’ they said they don’t like and you have to find right there. The worst part is always being shouted at TVC or a movie production. Can you imagine, we started working since 5AM in the morning and we have to deal with weather, rain or shine, under big hot sun so we get very tired and frustrated. And we have to chase the time where we got the natural sunlight. It’s a 12 hours of stress and everybody are shouting at everybody. Always told to stand by, to touch up etc. So I think the environment is not very healthy if you ask me, if i could remember as a stylist.