38 years old, toy designer and street scene royalty
He’s been hailed as one of Hong Kong’s most creative exports, and credited with the return of toys to our city’s design scene. These are no overstatements: toys were for kids until the long haired boy from the New Territories took street culture and made it into a 12-inch figurine named Gardener, spawning a loyal cult following – and some serious street cred.
Starting out as fine art painter, Lau eventually moved on to street culture and design, creating some of the most infamous collectables to hit local shelves. Once you meet him, it’s easy to tell who he based his famous figurines on. Throw in the blend of hip-hop and skateboard culture, and you can understand why people line up at Lau’s stores in Hong Kong, New York, and London to collect their very own Gardener – a sign that you’re in with “the cool”.
The laid back subculture prince laughs cynically when told he’s a TO hero. “You’re calling me a Hong Kong hero,” says Lau “What else can I do but laugh?”
Entrenched in the world of street culture, and having done many collaborative projects with prominent creative minds, Lau feels a connection to the city: "There would be no Michael Lau if there was no Hong Kong. Hong Kong is unique in the sense that it is small, congested, fast-paced, not so aware of its own culture, [yet] it is a melting pot of all kinds of culture, a place where anything can happen."
Having carried out a joint project with American social photography legend Terry Richardson last autumn, Lau is continuously coming up with new plans. His most recent creative effort was a project combining the Gardeners with Nike. But his heart is closer to home: "After the launch of Gardener exhibition at The Pao Gallery in HKAC in 1999, that’s when Michael Lau was officially born to the world." Bourree Lam
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