By Geoff Girvitz
Special to The Toronto Sun
Anne Hung says it's fate. After all, the Ryerson University fashion graduate knew that she would eventually make it in the fashion industry. Even as a student, she was winning awards for her innovative designs. Yet, it was not until later that her path would become totally clear.
After finishing at the top of her class, Hung headed straight to New York to pursue her calling. Yet, despite her former successes, getting noticed in the city's competitive fashion scene proved even more difficult than expected.
A graduate of the fashion program at
Ryerson University, Anne Hung's creations were devoured by the New York fashion set. She now runs her own shop, the Anne Hung
Boutique, on Queen Street West.
"To make it as a designer, you have to have a mouth on you," she says with characteristically buoyant energy. In her case, this meant doggedly courting top industry names and refusing to take no for an answer.
Six months of tenacity paid off when she finally connected with Tommy Hilfiger. The American icon backed Hung's entry into Alternative Fashion Week, an event orchestrated to showcase the work of new designers.
When her major debut earned her a standing ovation from the New York crowd, Hung knew that there was no turning back. By the end of that night, any questions as to what she was meant to do were erased from her mind as she busily took orders from fashion houses as far away as Japan.
"I was forced into it," she says, "people were making orders for designs . . . and paying in advance. I had no choice but to accept."
The result of this sudden break was an eight-year journey as a wholesaler, shipping out her own designs to fashion houses throughout the world. Although this was a rare opportunity for someone fresh out of school, Hung had little time to enjoy her unexpected success.
By 2001, the local girl had created a thriving company and transformed her own name into an internationally-recognized brand. Satisfied with her success, yet searching to be more in touch with the people wearing her clothes, the designer fulfilled her long standing fantasy of opening her own retail store.
In December of 2002, Hung found the perfect trendy location for an outlet, at 829 Queen St. W. She christened her new enterprise the Anne Hung Boutique and opened the doors to the public.
"Wholesale was rewarding, but it didn't give me the chance to interact with customers. I knew what people were buying," says Hung as she brushes red-dyed hair away from her face, "but I didn't know why."
With the opening of the boutique, however, Hung was able to gain a direct line into the souls -- and wallets -- of her customers.
Not only did she have a chance to discover how people reacted to her designs, she gained the singular pleasure of finding individuals who that genuinely understood them.
"When that first began to happen, I asked myself, 'Why did I wait so long to go into retail?'"
At this point, the waiting is over. Hung's clothing -- which ranges from subtly contoured blouses to men's boxers with the trademark "Hung" stamped across the front -- is flying off the shelves fast enough for the fashion maven to take things easy for the first time.
Despite being known as the go-to designer in Toronto, Hung keeps her clothing affordable.
"I want people to come back regularly . . . I want them interested in what's going on and even gossiping about the store."
So far, the gossip has been good and Anne Hung's name remains on the lips of Toronto's fashionistas.
(Geoff Girvitz is some things to all people. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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