Hong Kong fashion icons in 1997 vs 2022, from Anita Mui to Keung To

Mirror star and Hong Kong fashion icon Keung To in Burberry.
PHOTO: Instagram/Keung_show

Back in 1997, Hong Kong's fashion icons were performers who dominated the music stage or big screen, like queens of Canto-pop Anita Mui Yim-fong and Faye Wong, or Wong Kar-wai's long-time muse Maggie Cheung Man-yuk.

Whether in performance or daily life, these celebrities brought bold, avant-garde looks as well as simpler, trendy pieces to the forefront of Hong Kong fashion, popularising everything from androgynous suits to casual low-rise jeans.

Fast-forward to 2022 and our sources of fashion inspiration have changed with the times.

While traditional artists such as Canto-pop boy band Mirror's Keung To still have a strong impact on trends, the emergence of social media has meant that influencers have been able to carve out a niche in the fashion scene, with some even rivalling the famous stars of yesteryear.

Here we look at five fashion icons from 1997 and their counterparts in 2022.

Five fashion icons of 1997

Anita Mui

Anita Mui wears a wedding gown at one of her last concerts in Hong Kong, in November 2003.
PHOTO: Reuters

Known as the beloved "daughter of Hong Kong", Canto-pop diva Anita Mui will always be remembered for her dynamic vocals and onstage presence. The singer also became known for her avant-garde looks, which cemented her status as one of Hong Kong's fashion icons in the 1990s.

Mui's fashion constantly evolved to reflect the different stages of her career. Working closely with designer and friend Eddie Lau Pui-kei, she introduced androgyny to her repertoire by donning menswear-inspired pieces, including Yves Saint Laurent's famous Le Smoking suit.

Her other outfits included haute couture pieces from Dior, femme-fatale looks and even two wedding dresses — one Chinese, one Western — that she wore during her final stage performance in 2003 to show fans that she was married to the stage.

Maggie Cheung

Maggie Cheung in a skin-tight latex catsuit in the 1996 film Irma Vep.
PHOTO: Instagram/Mubi

While actress Maggie Cheung may be best known for her elegant cheongsam dresses in Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love (2000), she was already known for her on- and off-screen fashion looks before the 2000s rolled around.

In Wong's As Tears Go By (1988) and Days of Being Wild (1990), the actress was seen in flowy dresses and skirts, while in Irma Vep (1996) she dons a black, skin-tight, latex catsuit.

Outside her film roles, she embodied 1990s fashion with baby tees and low-rise jeans, and also dressed in youthful and carefree looks with an edgy streak, like leather jackets and Chelsea boots.

Faye Wong

Faye Wong performs in a see-through dress paired with a black sweater crop top and knitted underwear.
PHOTO: Twitter/ShopThrilling

Singer and actress Faye Wong emerged in the early 1990s after she moved from mainland China to Hong Kong and started singing in Cantonese (she would later revert to her native Mandarin).

With the aid of long-time stylist Titi Kwan, she became known for wearing daring pieces, including a chandelier dress made from Swarovski's crystal fabric, Jeremy Scott's sole-less heels, and even a see-through dress paired with a black sweater crop top and knitted underwear.

Offstage, Wong adopted a boyish look for the film Chungking Express (1994), in which she was seen in striped tees and oval sunglasses, while in day-to-day life, she wore loose and flowy grunge outfits.

Michelle Yeoh

Michelle Yeoh in a metallic lace silver gown at the North American premiere of Tomorrow Never Dies. 
PHOTO: Twitter/Evclynwang

Well-known in both Hong Kong and Hollywood circles, actress Michelle Yeoh won the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant in 1983, and went on to star in a number of Hong Kong action films, including Supercop (1992) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000).

As Yeoh became known for her film roles, she also impressed on the red carpet. For the premiere of Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997 — her first major Hollywood film — she stunned in a metallic lace silver gown that embodied the glamour of her Bond girl character.

Since then she has amassed her own collection of iconic outfits and jewellery, including the emerald ring made famous in Crazy Rich Asians (2018).

Leslie Cheung

Leslie Cheung at the 1994 Hong Kong Film Awards.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

One of Canto-pop's biggest icons, Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing is revered by Hongkongers for his extensive acting and singing career. His father was a tailor, and Cheung studied textile management at university before going into show business.

When he grew into prominence as a singer, he showed a flamboyant, daring vibe, challenging Hong Kong's conservative-leaning status quo at the time.

For one of his concert looks in 1997 he wore a shimmering black suit and red sequinned heels, and he would go on to wear other androgynous pieces such as skirts and sheer tops. In 2000, fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier was invited to design Cheung's concert looks, marking his first time designing for an Asian artist.

On-screen, Cheung was recognised for playing queer characters in Happy Together (1997) and Farewell My Concubine (1993), and eventually became something of an LGBT icon. After struggling with clinical depression he took his own life in 2003, but his legacy lives on.

Five fashion icons of 2022

Keung To

Mirror star and Hong Kong fashion icon Keung To in Burberry.
PHOTO: Instagram/Keung_show

Given his huge popularity of late, Keung To might as well be called Hong Kong's darling son.

The Mirror singer shot to fame after competing on ViuTV's reality talent contest King Maker and quickly garnered a loyal fan base, who established him as the city's biggest breakout star in recent memory (his fan club recently celebrated his birthday by sponsoring free tram rides for all).

Aside from captivating the public with his voice and dance moves, he's also attracted eyes for his fashion.

One brand that Keung is often photographed in is Burberry; he's been seen in a number of its signature vintage check-print items, as well as its famous trench coat.

Keung's wardrobe includes a range of casual suits and sporty-chic pieces from brands like Salvatore Ferragamo and Calvin Klein — you'll find him pairing hoodies with suit jackets, cosying up in oversized sweaters, and layering denim jackets over T-shirts.

Tina Leung

Tina Leung at the Gucci show at Castel Del Monte, in Italy, in May 2022.
PHOTO: Instagram/Tinaleung

Currently based in New York, Tina Leung traces her fashion roots back to Hong Kong, where her career in the industry began. She set up her fashion blog Tina Loves in 2011 and today the stylist and influencer is a regular at fashion shows for brands like Chanel, Prada and Miu Miu.

Over the years, Leung also styled photoshoots and collaborated with luxury brands including Gucci and Bulgari for special projects.

She's become known for her street style and has been seen in a wide variety of captivating looks, including feathered shawls, sequinned gowns, chequered sweaters and neon dresses.

At Gucci's most recent fashion show in Castel del Monte in Italy, she donned a blue-silver suit with a metallic heart clutch.

Serrini

Serrini on the cover of her album Nynch.
PHOTO: Instagram/Gwendolyn.spot

Independent singer-songwriter Serrini has carved her own niche in the Hong Kong music industry with her unique lyrics and tunes, which address everything from love and romance to current affairs.

Her fashion style matches the quirkiness of her music, as she is unafraid to wear out-of-the-box pieces that others may shy away from.

For one video, she transformed into a drag queen and dressed in a patterned minidress with a pink and purple train, which she complemented with a striking blue and pink wig.

Other (more toned-down) looks she has worn include a light blue suit, a gold dress from Dolce & Gabbana, and a feathered white gown by Huishan Zhang.

The singer also embodies changing beauty standards in Hong Kong, which have become more inclusive of different body sizes over the years.

Tyson Yoshi

Tyson Yoshi in Louis Vuitton. 
PHOTO: Instagram/Tysonyoshi

Tyson Yoshi is another independent artist who has emerged on the Hong Kong music scene in recent years.

Known as a hip-hop artist, Yoshi sings and raps in Cantonese and English as well as Mandarin, given that his biggest fan base outside Hong Kong is in Taiwan.

One look at Yoshi and it's clear that his style matches his career — he's often seen wearing oversized shirts, casual hoodies and an array of silver rings.

But the rapper also cleans up well: He was spotted wearing a black denim set from Louis Vuitton and wore two colourful suits for his recent I don't smoke & I don't drink music video.

Hilary Tsui

Hilary Tsui.
PHOTO: Instagram/Hilaryxtsui

While former actress Hilary Tsui may not be the loudest on Instagram, her numerous fashion endeavours point to her sense of style.

After marrying singer and actor Eason Chan and giving up acting, Tsui worked as her husband's stylist for a time before fully diving into the fashion world, continuing her work as a stylist and adding designer to her list of duties.

Tsui's style is embodied by her contemporary clothing brand Chance, which offers casual pieces that combine femininity and urban aesthetics.

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Several pieces in the line are evidently inspired by Hong Kong, including a midi skirt with a multicoloured goldfish print and a T-shirt with a red Chinese folding fan.

Meanwhile, Tsui's fashion, activewear and sneaker shop Her houses a curation of bold, distinct pieces that will delight streetwear fans.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.