A very busy Gok Wan takes some time out during a brief visit to Dublin to talk to Janice Butler about his latest projects, the secret of his success and working with Pappa Wan!
JB: It seems you are busier than ever now, but how do you manage to maintain your success?
GW: I would like to think that it's because whatever I do, I do it 100% and I'm involved in the entire creative and development process of all the products, projects and television shows and books. But I suppose part of it is that there's not many other people doing what I do and I like to feel like I speak for the everyday person. And maybe a bit of luck thrown in there too – who knows?
You have always been open about your personal life; is that something you’re glad you’ve done or do you regret being so open?
I don’t regret it. I’ve always struggled with inviting the media into my personal life and every year a bit more seems to drip in and now that my family are a massive part of my career, especially my dad, it has made me very protective of the people around me. I am also very secretive about parts of my life that I never want to share with the media like relationships because that's the last bit left private. I’m very strict about access to partners, friends and family – they are the three areas that I won't compromise on.
In the recent documentary, Made in China, you went to China with your father to find out about your family heritage. What was that experience like for you?
It wasn't a great experience – it was hard and it’s a completely different culture to what we have in Europe. I had never experienced anything like it before, it was tough and exhausting. It involved really long filming days and a lot of travelling, you had to be switched on the whole time. I’m not too sure I’d be rushing out to do another one, I need to be at home for a while!
You received some negative feedback after the show aired from a certain journalist and took to Twitter to defend yourself and the show, how did that make you feel?
It doesn't really bother me but I must say it’s great to have Twitter, it gives you a voice to answer back and people in the media never really had that before. I can cope easily with bad press and people having opinions of me and I get it every day but I was quite shocked when that journalist referred to me as a ‘monster’. More so because I knew my parents would read it and no one wants their parents subjected to their child being called a monster.
Now that your dad – Pappa Wan as you call him – is getting more involved with your work, is he enjoying the media life and will we see him take to Twitter any time soon?
No! I won't let him. He's on facebook which I find pretty bizarre but he's not allowed a Twitter account or an agent or PR person. I think there will be a little bit of public fascination in him because he's a great guy and quite quirky but I have him under strict instructions.
Do you think you're similar to your father?
I would say I am my dad and I am turning into him more and more, the older I get. I worry about stuff before it's happened and I’m grumpy – I am basically my dad.
You're going to be doing a Chinese cooking programme with your father, can you tell us anything about it and what would you say is your dinner party dish?
I’m not allowed talk about it! I was told off for talking about it recently so now I am under strict instructions. But if I was going to cook for a dinner party I would probably do bitter gourd with braised bean curd and fish cakes. I could eat that now!
You're in Dublin to promote your new eyewear collection with Specsavers. Can you tell me about the new collection?
We did all the market research from the first collection to work out what frames were our bestsellers so we kept those in and worked out which of the styles people were leaning towards and it was definitely the '40s and '50s ones. But this collection is slightly more grown-up, slightly more polished and not as flamboyant.
Lastly, you've been to Ireland so many times now – how do you rate the way we dress?
There is no difference between Irish women who look glamorous and gorgeous and the women in London but you're always going to find people who struggle from a fashion point of view. It is exactly the same no matter where you are!
Gok Wan's eye-wear collection for Specsavers is on sale now.
Gok's words of wisdom!
With people spending less money on clothes, what can we do to give our old threads a fresh breath of life?
Firstly, I would say to edit your wardrobe and take a good look at what you have in it. Then try customising and see if you could turn things that you are bored with into something else. I would also arrange in my community or workplace some swap shops. They are such a wonderful way of getting some great new items for your wardrobe.
For those of us who aren't great with a needle and thread, what’s the easiest thing to customise?
Probably tops and the more simple it is originally, the more you can add to it. The more you’re taking away from something it gets a bit tricky because you start to lose the dimensions. If it’s a very plain dress or top, try adding some shoulder pads, buttons, cutting through the neckline, all really simple.
What are your top trends for the season ahead?
I’m really excited about the spring/summer collections – there’s a lot of prints and they’re beautiful, I also love the tailoring and Savile Row cuts that we’re seeing, as well as the gorgeous lightweight fabrics that are floating off the catwalk onto the high street.