Veronica Chou needed a break. It was 2014. She was fast approaching her 30s and had already achieved enormous success in fashion, the same industry conquered by her father, Silas Chou, and his father before him. Since founding her company in 2008, she had brought at least a dozen mainstream brands, like Ed Hardy, London Fog and Candie’s, to China during the blossoming of the nation’s middle class that drove enormous demand for western brands across the country.
“We opened up 1,000 stores, not so much in Beijing and Shanghai, but in the second-, third- and fourthtier cities,” Chou says, recalling a breakneck pace of working that, in her family, seems to be hereditary. “But the experience there really was eye-opening: every time I stepped out of the plane and walked into a sand cloud. For anyone who’s lived in Asia, we remember everyone was talking about the air pollution back then. After a long day of work, I’d go home and wash my face and hands and they were all black.”
“We know that people care even more about sustainability after Covid-19. I’m not making party dresses. If you want a dress, go rent one or buy second-hand”
Chou decided to go on a seven-day trek in Nepal to clear her mind, and her lungs. She meditated and spent her days practising yoga, and one night she woke up and experienced a moment when she knew that whatever she did next would revolve around sustainability. In March 2015, she sold her stake in the company, Iconix China, to its American joint venture partner for US$56 million.
“I had this epiphany that whatever I do has to have a bit more of a purpose,” she says.
Until then, Chou had largely followed in the footsteps of her father, the Hong Kong tycoon whose investments in the American sportswear labels Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors transformed what was already a substantial manufacturing business into a global powerhouse of fashion. His influence was so prominent that Chou was named honorary chairman of the 2015 Met Gala, celebrating the exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass, and his portfolio grew to include stakes in numerous brands like Karl Lagerfeld and Pepe Jeans.
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