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Family ties

By Rebecca Lo | China Daily | Updated: 2014-01-05 07:18

 Family ties

Joanna Chu Liao's designs combine different textiles, and often there are leather, fur and cashmere all in one garment. Photos provided to China Daily

Family ties
Wearable fashion 
Joanna Chu Liao is the daughter of garment makers. She reveals to Rebecca Lo why she gave up a career in accounting to return to her love - fashion.

Those familiar with Jo's Ready to Wear will most likely be familiar with Joanna Chu Liao, the brand's founder and lead designer. Liao personifies her brand in a way that no devoted fashion aficionado could.

In person, her chic bob and all-black attire make her look like a no-nonsense businessperson, yet such soft touches as a striking chain of stones around her neck allude to the designer in her. And she is constantly on the phone, as it is nearly time to pick up her son from school and she is coordinating that without having to cut short our interview.

Liao, like her customers, is a busy working mom. It just so happens that her line of business is fashion. She operates a boutique design house that does not adhere to the demands of the cut-throat market, making ready-to-wear dresses and separates in small batches. Along with her Causeway Bay by-appointment-only boutique, she sells a handpicked number of garments through Harvey Nichols.

Liao has adored fashion for as long as she can remember. Like many girls growing up in 1970s' Hong Kong, Liao was fascinated by clothes, dressing up and looking pretty. Her father worked in the garment manufacturing business, often late into the night to meet order deadlines.

"We didn't have computers at the time and I didn't go out much," she admits. "My father is a workaholic, and mom worked by his side. He would always have dinners and lunches with designers from New York City. I thought they were such exciting people. Invariably we wound up with stacks of fashion magazines at home: trade ones like WWD (Women's Wear Daily)."

Her father initially produced OEM, or original equipment manufacturer, where his garments were sold under another label. Although Liao's mother felt that her daughter had the natural talent to pursue a career in fashion design, Liao herself was hesitant.

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