(Original language: Cantonese)
TINA LIU: Throughout my career, I’ve never focused solely on one thing. Instead, I juggled tasks simultaneously, and I got to ‘play’ in different fields. ‘Play’ definitely doesn’t imply that I don’t take my work seriously.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I went to Canada during my teens. In 1978, I joined TVB (Television Broadcasting Limited) as an actress, where I had to perform, sing, and host. At the same time, I also ventured into the film industry and worked in various roles, including acting, producing, and assisting in directing. It was a boom time in Hong Kong from 1978 to 1980. Opportunities for innovation and new platforms arose. It was a rare opportunity.
City Magazine was so chic. It aligned with young people’s global pop culture sensitivity. City Magazine started without a long-term plan, our goal was to create a magazine for the city and reflect Hong Kong at the time. In 1982, we enlarged the magazine and changed its image entirely. William Chang helped us design the new cover, I did the cover models’ make-up and arranged everything.
We had a limited budget but wanted good results, we relied on our own resources. I often used items from my own home for shoots. For instance, a person we featured on our cover who never accepted invitations from any other publication to appear on their covers. This person was the writer Yi Shu, it was her 40th birthday. I gave her a black long-sleeved T-shirt, applied light makeup, and highlighted her long hair. As for the background, we used a blanket from my home. This blanket was a birthday present from my friend, singer George Lam.
At the time, Bowie Lam was new to the industry. He was a production assistant at my company Black & White Records. He was energetic and young. He was only in his twenties. For the cover concept, we had him sit in an inflatable pool that my daughter Yoyo used to have, and poured water on him from a ladder over and over again to capture the perfect shot. We finally chose this photo for the cover. Back then, we just wanted to have fun and work. We were like, ‘Can we do this? Let’s do it!’. We wouldn’t care about too much.
To be honest, only after working at City Magazine did I find my . . . how should I put it? ‘Natural talent’? In art and design. But having talent is not enough, you need opportunities to practice. At that time, everything I did was related to design or styling. It was like a playground for me to practice in. In a short period of time, my potential developed into a profession, I became an image consultant.
I consider the singer and song’s characteristics when designing record covers and the album’s concept. The information is integrated into the covers as the packaging serves, to showcase the singer and the music. For A Thousand Suns . . . I was intimately involved in its production, including song selection and recording, even knowing about the duet of Deanie Ip and Elisa Chan. I wanted the album to look gorgeous, splendid, and bright. When I saw a brocade fabric, I got inspiration instantly, and thought of designing a top for Deanie. I designed the album cover, starting from her image. Her hairstyle was a very clean ponytail. She wore traditional Cloisonne jewellery. I also did her makeup which carried a touch of Eastern aesthetics with feline flicks. The song A Thousand Suns was very passionate and powerful, I wanted to express a brilliant intensity like the heat of the sun, so that the colour and feeling of the music could be interwoven with the feeling, the brocade fabric gave me.
I felt a person’s ‘image’ was not only something necessary on screen or on stage. Not being a public figure doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to your image. Everyone’s appearance reflects something about one’s self-awareness or standards. We all face an audience daily. It’s just not necessarily on stage. My image consultancy firm Xia Qi Hall was where I put this thought into practice for ordinary people.
Costume designers play an important role in cinematic storytelling. We create and realise the story with costumes so the audience can forget the actors and be convinced they are the characters, identify them with their roles, and get absorbed in the story. ‘East Meets West 2011’ was quite a challenging job. As the main characters were all gods, we had to prepare costumes beyond modern clothes. For costumes they wore on earth, we designed according to a character’s personality. Their costumes in heaven had to share some connection with those on earth, while looking unique on their own. If directors look for something that is innovative, flexible, chic and interesting, I think I can deliver what they need.
As a member of the Hong Kong Film Arts Association. In recent years, I’ve put my ideas into action. My goal is to increase awareness and pass down the film art and costume design industry to future generations. To achieve this, we run courses, introducing our industry and expand students’ knowledge. Serving the film is like a hobby, and hobbies are about joy and playfulness.
I often use the word ‘play’. That’s because it reflects my attitude, I don’t mean to be irresponsible when I say ‘play’. I use the word to represent enjoyment. Although I’m now in my sixties, there’s still a lot to learn while working. It’s a kind of growth. My commitment to ‘playing’ and embracing joy remains unchanged. That’s my plan—I will continue to play on.
A versatile artist, Tina Liu has consistently pushed creative boundaries throughout her career. After gaining recognition as an actress, singer and host with TVB in 1978, Liu honed a meticulous approach to fashion styling and editorial design as Executive Director of the highly influential City Magazine in 1981, the first monthly magazine on Hong Kong local culture and lifestyle. Liu’s cover designs vividly captured the city’s cultural pulse.
Beyond her contributions to film, television, radio, music and print media, Liu’s unique artistic vision is manifested in her collaborations with celebrated figures like Yi Shu, Deanie Ip and William Chang, demonstrating her multi-disciplinary talent and ability to traverse fields that reflect Hong Kong’s distinct visual culture.
- Produced by
- Assistant Director
- Research Writer
Sam Tam, Patrick Wai, Chung Cheuk Fan
Lam Lok Ching, Law Ka Kui
- Camera Assistant
Terence Chan, Roy Wong, Yuen Wan Tang
- Gaffer Assistant
- Sound Recordist
- Colour Grading
- M+ Video Producer
Jaye Yau, Mimi Cheung, Rachel Chan
- M+ Curatorial Research
- M+ Text Editing
Amy Leung, LW Lam, Chris Sullivan
- Special Thanks
Out of Thin Air: Hong Kong Film Arts & Costumes Exhibition
Hong Kong Heritage Museum
Hong Kong Film Arts Association
Black and White Records
Dadi Century (Beijing) Company Ltd.