Keo Wan, founder of the Keo.W brand, is a self-described badass. It’s not a job title, obviously, but an attitude and energy that he brings to every project. The art forms change all the time – from sculpting to toy design to retail and F&B concepts, to brand packaging. Yet the underlying design philosophy remains the same: to create what he envisions. Nothing else.
Walking around his design studio in Kwun Tong, you’ll tour his many creations, eyeing one design after the other, and contemplating the detail of how he brought each one to life. As we sat in his office, Keo kindly showed us his portfolio of work: some past… some present… some secret… and some… ideas that were still seed ideas. His ability to crossover between many industries demonstrates the removal of the mental barriers that can often limit creatives from expanding their vision. Keo is a part of this movement and through his intricacy and boundless energy, allows his art to speak for him.
Hi Keo, it was great to be at your studio. As you showed us your company deck, we noticed you do multiple things – all creative – but what do you define yourself as in a nutshell?
I’m a badass artist.
Tell us a little bit about how the Keo.W brand came to be.
Because I’m a badass, and that’s what badasses do.
You mentioned you started sculpting at 13 years old. What inspired you to pick up this craft?
I’ve always had a talent for creating. Sculpting was just another facet
Is there any one in particular who inspired you, and did you ever get to show them your work?
My Father. But my father passed away when I was 14 year old. To this day, he is the one man that inspires and pushes me. Hopefully he will look down and be impressed.
You once said that Hong Kong artists are scared when it comes to experimenting with different art forms and outside markets. What was it about this city that made you decide to set up shop in, and does that mentality ever hold you down?
Art is for the courageous, and if you’re fearless: nothing is off limits. As for why I setup in Hong Kong, Hong Kong is my home but my creations are open to the world. The rules on creation are what you set yourself. I have no rules, I just create what I feel and let it take form. No rules, No limits.
Over the years, you’ve grown your company from sculptures to entering the Food & Beverage and Retail Industry. What lessons did you learn when it came to expanding your boundaries?
There aren’t really any boundaries, the only boundary to overcome is yourself.
How different is your approach to creating within each of these industries?
They aren’t different. I’m always learning, researching, and understanding. These are the building blocks to being diverse. I do what I want, when I want, and how I want. I work without rules. This is how I grow.
When approaching the production process of toys like art, does that influence a more creative process?
Not really, the creative process, no matter what the subject or audience is, always results in the same emotion: happiness
When we were talking at your studio, you said that you are detached in order to move on to the next project. Why is emptying yourself so important in your creative process?
When your mind is clear, you’re not tied down by the obstacles of your mind.
In 2015, you helped redesign a regular cafe into the “World’s first Hello Kitty-themed restaurant”. What types of challenges do you love when brands come to you to collaborate?
My biggest challenge is always the creative vision. When they clash it’s very hard to progress but when they work, well you can see for yourself.
Nowadays, people look at careers and think they have to do something they don’t like but it earns a lot of money or they work on their passion but can’t make a living from it – how are you able to turn your passion into a business?
Just follow your dreams; be in them and eventually you will find its value. I’m still learning every day but my advice is: don’t let anyone tell you what you can and cannot be. Always find your own way.
What is your dream project?
A project that will change the world for the better.
What would you want to see emerge in the near future from the Hong Kong scene?
I define the future. I don’t consider the future that much. I mostly live in the “now”, and let that define the future. My motto: why think of the future when I can make the future, today.
What’s next for Keo Wan?
Follow me on Facebook Keo.W and find out.