Cover Vivian Luk

The designer’s debut children’s book, Honeycomb & Her Superpower Friends, explores the superpowers within each of us

Two brushes with cancer combined with the effects of the pandemic changed fashion designer Vivian Luk’s outlook, making her reassess her work and her approach to it.

Luk’s first bout of cancer occurred while she was pregnant with her daughter and as such, there was little she could do to address the disease but wait until her daughter was born, after which her therapy began.

Determined not to let cancer stop her work, Luk continued designing, but four years later, cancer struck again. This time, she decided to make some lifestyle changes that included slowing down her bespoke design to focus on ready-to-wear so she could work more from home. Then the pandemic hit. Weddings, for which she frequently designed dresses, and other events, ground to a standstill. And Luk found herself with her daughter at home more often.

Sketching became something they did together. Or, while her daughter Kaylen was doing Zoom school, Luk was drawing while keeping an eye on her. This creative activity also helped Luk to find balance. It's something that she has consistently found strength in.

“As a creative, I needed to make something and keep my creative juices flowing,” says Luk, who turned to her creativity when spending time in hospital recovering from cancer the second time round. “I couldn’t do anything related to work, because I didn’t want to stress myself out, but at the same time I found [creative] things to do. When people sent me flowers and they started to dry, I would make things with them. I wanted to surround myself with my creations and to feel like even though I wasn’t at home, I was still surrounded by my own world.”

Luk’s pandemic sketching gradually developed into an idea for a book, the inspiration for which stemmed from her children’s fashion collection, Little Miss Luk. The designer took seven dresses from the collection and transformed them into the characters in the book, each with their own inner strength, ranging from creativity to passion, kindness, courage, gratitude, curiosity and persistence.

“I wanted to imagine if my dresses were a girl, what each would look like. Then the character would be wearing the dress, and the dress would come apart and they could use parts of their dress as part of their superpower,” says Luk.

In Honeycomb & Her Superpower Friends, one character's superpower, for example, is courage. “I want people to know that when you have a superpower, it doesn’t mean that you are always that way. For example, with courage, she’s not always brave. She’s actually quite fearful sometimes. But if you don’t have fear, you don’t break out of it to be courageous,” says Luk. The outfit worn by the character Pumpkin, whose superpower is courage, is the shape of a ball, but the dress’s silhouette is collapsed until Pumpkin starts to feel courageous when it billows boldly.

There's a key message that Luk wants readers to take from the book. “You have to embrace who you are and own your traits and be able to turn them into a power that can help others and empower you, too,” says Luk, who identifies her own superpower as creativity, the same as that of Honeycomb, the book’s title character.

“Growing up, my family always said, ‘Oh you’re such a creative; you’re too emotional. You have too many ideas, you're all over the place’. So, for me, I felt I had to hide my creativity and manage it. But now, I actually like the fact that I’m emotional and sensitive and I’m going to use it to somehow help others,” says Luk, who has started to share her creativity through teaching art and design courses at Arch Education Center in Hong Kong.

As part of a campaign to promote the book, Luk is working with Jennifer Yu Cheng, Jennifer Ma, Emily Lam Ho, Colleen Yu Fung, Grace Chan, Celina Jade, Rabee’a Yeung and Crisel Consunji. Each of these women will be revealing what they believe to be their own superpower and how identifying their inner strength has helped them to discover who they are through a series of social media posts.

“Working with Vivian on this book campaign has been a humbling and enlightening experience, as through the process I have learnt to accept what I thought was a weakness to actually be a superpower,” says Colleen Yu Fung, founder and CEO of EX-R International Ltd in her campaign post on Instagram. “My superpower is empathy. I used to be insecure about my empathetic ability thinking that it makes me weak and vulnerable—crying at every movie, worrying about people I don’t really need to, or easily forgiving people who have caused me pain. Then I realised it has actually always been my superpower, helping me to unconditionally love people around me.  Moreover, it enables me to be able to design experiences that result in the exact feelings I hope my target audience can feel. I now feel proud of this superpower and want to use it further to inspire people around me.”

Luk hopes her book will be a conversation starter and a source of inspiration, both for women empowering each other and between mothers and their daughters.

“It’s important to talk about women empowerment and to teach our children to use their voices, to fully exercise their talents and potential, and to overcome challenges,” says Emily Lam Ho, founder and CEO of investment platform Empact 28.

“Women empowerment begins with our children,” says actress, singer and early childhood educator Crisel Consunji, who is the founder of creative arts learning centre Baumhaus. “We need to encourage girls especially to believe in themselves and celebrate the values that make each one of them special. By helping them believe in themselves, we encourage them to support others as well.”

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