September 01, 2017

STORYTELLERS WE LOVE

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THE INVENTIVE LENSMAN: KEVIN OU

Kevin Ou

 

Kevin Ou (@kevinou), an artist that’s dedicated to creating beauty and positive change in the world with his natural ability to bring out a hidden side of a person using still images and videos. We got the privilege to interview Kevin, whom we believe truly embraces the story and details of The Hare and The Flying Tortoise Bags.

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1. Hi Kevin, why did you choose Atlas Bar for our photoshoot?

I chose Atlas Bar for the ambience, food, and drinks. I love this place because it provides a sense of escapism. When you step through the main doors of the Parkview Square building, it immediately transports you to another world. The Art Deco reminds me of a time period that I would love to have lived in. The baroque detail is in a time where style was still important.

2. Can you tell us the story behind KEVINOU, Inc? 

I was 19 when I decided to leave Singapore for Los Angeles. I’ve always been very ambitious and the ceiling for creative in Singapore in the early 1990’s wasn’t very high. I wanted to aim much higher. 
 
I packed my bags exactly 7 days after completing my time in the military and I was off to Los Angeles. Looking back, it was a scary move. I didn’t have much money then and didn’t know a single soul in LA. Social media wasn’t even a thing back then and communication was difficult. Being young, ambitious and bold, I didn’t really think about it. I moved forward, one step at a time.
 
Many asked how I started working with presidents, politicians and the biggest celebrities on earth, but my answer remains the same to this day. “You start from the very bottom and work your way up”. I’ve tried and failed more times than I can count. A photography mentor of mine, David LaChapelle once mentioned to me, “Success is not final and failure is not the end. It's the audacity to continue after the failure that counts”. Ever since then, I’ve always picked myself up after each failure.

KEVINOU, Inc was my years of effort in specializing in Celebrity-led marketing content. My team and I sought out to help brands/companies connect with audiences through striking and stylized personality-based content. Through my natural ability to bring a hidden side out of a person using still images and videos, I’ve quickly grown to be the definite go-to for important clients who have a busy schedule and do not have the time to stand in front of a camera all day. In that aspect, we’ve grown to be miracle workers.

 

 Toting our Aspen Backpack in Camo

3. Can you tell us the story behind The Lumenere Group?
When I got back to Asia after 16 years in the US, I’ve had several new friends (and companies) approach me to acquire talents for them. “Oh, you know Johnny Depp or Lady Gaga, can you help us get them”, was how most conversations would go. Being new in Asia again, I foolishly did the first few ‘favours’ for free. It was only after a while that I question myself as to why I was doing it for free.


It was then that I saw the opportunity to create a Celebrity Marketing & Content Agency. It was a very exciting time as there are many brands/companies in Asia who are starting to expand regionally and globally. However, the brand perception from the western markets might prevent them from buying or adopting the brand. Take Huawei for example. They are a billion dollar company in their own right. Massive adoption in China and India, but to the western market, they are a Chinese company and many would not support it.

In 2015, Huawei adopted western celebrities (Scarlett Johansson & Henry Cavill). They supported the brand values and personalities and that helped Huawei break into the market. Having a familiar or likeable person to bridge the consumer gap is one of the best strategies. Cost to cost, no other marketing initiative can provide such a marketing uplift in that short period of time. There are many examples of agencies trying to do this wrongly, wasting time and money as well.

We’ve tapped on a require niche service that provides great value to brands/companies looking to expand. We don’t have many competitors and see an opportunity to working alongside brands and agencies to consult with them. Our vision is never to compete but always to complement.

In 2016, we stumbled upon an exciting opportunity, giving us access to some of the most sought after experiences and events in the world. We are now building a channel to offer our clients in Asia, a Global VIP experience. We specialize in events from Award shows, Hollywood Movie Premiers, International Fashion Shows to ringside seats with either camp at the highly anticipated Floyd Mayweather + Conor McGregor fight in Las Vegas. Our Jetsetter’s Program works with our global partners to provide an experience of a lifetime. Times are changing and people treasure travel & experiences more than physical items.

4. Can you tell us the story behind Modern Home + Living (MH+L)?

During my years in Los Angeles/New York as a Photographer/Director, I’ve met many incredible and smart people in the industry. One of them was the founder of DUB Magazine, executive producer for MTV’s Cribs and all round marketing guru. He had reached out to me with a great idea for a Celebrity focused, Home and Lifestyle 360 company (Print media, online, TV show, product, events, property, etc). It was large and had a huge potential.

Having an entrepreneurial background, I believed in the concept and sought to work together to bring it to life. Together with a 3rd partner who is a top branding designer, we decided to put in the blood, sweat and tears. We had a brilliant team. We grew the company quickly. Within 3 years, Modern Home + Living (MH+L) had a base publication, online presence, 2 multi-million dollar Penthouses in Downtown LA, potential TV show, developing the MH+L line of home products and a slew of celebrity parties and events. We found a largely untapped niche to connect home & lifestyle brands, celebrities and audiences.

However, the story turned downwards during the global financial crisis. I found out the hard way that the luxury industry gets hit the hardest in a financial downturn. If no one can pay their bills, no one will spend on a $50,000 couch or a million dollar penthouse, that they don’t need. MH+L was growing and did not have a large reserve to weather the storm.

We crashed and burnt. I learnt so much from the failure, but I’m glad to have made some great friends and relationships that I still work with until today.

5. How did you first get to know the Gentlemen from The Gentleman’s Pride? What was your vision for The Gentleman's Pride? How has it shaped your life?

The Gentleman’s Pride was the brainchild of marketing specialist, Eugene Lim. He quickly saw the potential of a men’s guide in Singapore. Whether it was due to the weather or lack of exposure, The Gentleman’s Pride (TGP) sought to inspire others to dress better and to do better.

However, that didn’t go over too well with the Singapore public. Many were outspoken about trying to push suits in Singapore. Citing the hot and humid weather, many called suits and dressing, in general, a waste of time. We personally didn’t believe in it, but it proved to be a monumental task to shift public perception.

The team sat down and discussed the reasons for the inception of TGP. The core response has always been to inspire and to provide value to men. We then realized that style was merely a facet and an option. Thus the new vision was born. TGP 2.0 was focused on being a resource to help men through the various stages of life.

There are many stages in a man's life (e.g student to working professional, adult to fatherhood, retirement, etc). Every stage requires a certain set of knowledge. The fortunate few have fathers or uncles to pass down this information, many do not. It was through further development of this concept did we found out that the skew of men’s content vs women’s content was almost at a 80-to-20 ratio. For many expecting moms looking for a baby stroller, there were mountains of websites and publications. Father’s on the other hand, didn’t fare so well. Our mission was then to create content for men, that they wouldn’t be ashamed to read. Instead of focusing on very high-level luxury brands, we intend to focus on the everyday man.

Through running this business, I’ve quickly learned how important personal style is. Through my years as an Artist, I’ve picked up a full body of tattoos, which I still love to this day. If I walked into a boardroom with a T-shirt and tattoos, I’d be chased out quickly. However, I do love the sense of balance, the yin-yang that comes with full-tattoos and an immaculate 3-piece suit. I love the controlled power and wild exuberance at the same time.

A minimalist, ultra functional briefcase that speaks volume of your style in an undeniably slim profile.

6. What does storytelling mean to you?

Human beings have been telling stories since the start of time, from caveman to our literary geniuses. Even in this digital age, storytelling is more rampant as social media acts as a perfect delivery vehicle to masses. However, not all storytelling is good. There are certainly different levels to the craft. The advent of digital distribution highlights that there is a lot more noise. Good storytelling is often drowned out in the bad.

My role in this is to be more selective on the content and stories that I create. My obvious goal is to create products and stories that will resonate globally.

7. What is your favourite form of storytelling and why? What influenced it and has it influenced you?

My favourite form of storytelling is film and videos. I’m deeply inspired by movies and love the nuances or timing, editing, screenplay and even the directing and expressions of the characters. I’ve started out my career as a photographer, but it is only as a director did I find the full freedom to create. Still images are in 2 Dimension, but film/video is 3 Dimensional with the ability for sound and emotion.

I’ve always created music videos and shorter commercial pieces. Long form was never in my head till recently. The bug has bitten, and I’m figuring out how I can produce and direct a longer piece.

8. Do you have any words that you live by?

A Japanese saying: Fall seven times and stand up eight
Meaning: When life knocks you down, stand back up; What matters is not the bad that happened, but what one does after.

9. Do you have a favourite fictional story? Why is it your favourite and how has it influenced you?

In Japan, there is a story that has been passed from generation to generation. It is the story of how a koi fish became a dragon. The ancient tale tells of a huge school of golden koi swimming upstream the Yellow River in China. The colours of their well-muscled bodies flashed in the sunlight making them seem like a million living jewels. All was going well until the koi reached a waterfall. Immediately, a large number of them grew discouraged and turned back, finding it much easier to turn back, letting the flow of the river carry them away.

The remaining koi refused to give up. Straining and leaping, each Koi strove to reach the top of the falls. Again and again, they flung their bodies into the air only to fall back into the water. Their efforts caught the attention of local demons, who mocked their efforts and heightened the waterfall out of malice. Still, the koi refuse to give up!

After a hundred years of jumping, one Koi finally reached the top of the waterfall. The God’s smiled down in approval and transformed the exhausted koi into a shining golden dragon, the image of power and strength.

The falls have become known as the Dragon’s Gate and, because of their endurance and perseverance, Koi have become symbolic of overcoming adversity and fulfilling one’s destiny.

This is my metaphor for life. There will be much effort and failure through life, but only with perseverance will one succeed, and become a dragon. I have this tattooed on my entire left arm. It reminds me on a daily basis never to give up.

“Fall seven times and stand up eight” - Kevin

10. What is your favourite style and all-time favourite piece?

Although not always suitable in Singapore hot and humid climate, I love my 3-piece suits. Donning a suit reminds me of a knight’s armour in the olden days. It hugs me well and instantly makes me feel more confident. It makes me feel at home.

Good tailors are hard to find. I’ve had a few custom suits made, but somehow the final fitting was always a little ‘off’. It doesn’t help that I’m very particular about the minor details of things, so an offset stitch or unbalanced suit form annoys me. My favourite piece of all time has to be from Gelen Yong. She’s a very young and ambitious suit maker in Singapore. Coming from a heritage of suit makers, she started her training since young. She has a blend of younger and refreshing materials and designs while embracing some classic designs. I like that she’s bespoke and by appointment only so I never have to fight with other customers for her time and get her full attention.

11. Is there a particular style that defines you or makes you feel comfortable in?

My style is fairly boring and conservative. I’m most comfortable when I’m in suits. Due to the humidity, I’ve been exploring with lighter and more breathable materials. Interestingly, Uniqlo had me try on one of their summer suit jackets and I absolutely love it. The cutting and material fit like a glove and I’ve since purchased one, a breathable, wrinkle-free suit with no lining, perfect for those really really hot days.

I’m also a lot less brand conscious these days. I’m choosing to focus on fit and functionality over blindly following a brand name. I hope to embrace the message to other men that you do not have to be rich or famous to start taking pride in what you wear. If you have a personal style, who cares what you wear! Style is classic, while trends and brands come and go.

12. Name one style you think men should adopt?

The one style men should adopt is confidence with an open mind. With confidence comes the ability to try different and new things like hats, layers, trench coats, suspenders, bow-ties, etc. You’ll never find what you like if you do not have an open mind to try it first. That is also the main reason why many people stay glued to where they are. Take a step. Take a big step. I promise you won’t die.

13. Do you have any fashion pet peeves?

I’m not sure why, but I absolutely detest flip-flops (slippers). There’s a level of casualness and for me, that falls way under. It’s a very rare occasion if you see me in flip-flops. I will admit that I’m rather odd sometimes.

Kevin’s everyday essentialsKevin’s everyday essentials

14. Can you tell us what are 3-5 everyday essentials that you carry and why?

  • Knives: I love knives. I carry a small fold out wherever I go. The concept of duality amazes me constantly. Having the ability to be useful and functional, while having the ability to be dangerous at the same time. I use it constantly in the course of my work and I’m currently into Krav Maga/Kali training to utilize knives more effectively.
  • Samsung Tab S3 Tablet: Samsung makes some really amazing products. I would have to say that the Samsung Tab S3 tablet is one of my most invaluable tools to my everyday work and planning. A tablet with a dedicated stylus to capture any notes on the fly. In the course of my work, there are many times when typing on a digital keyboard or drawing with my finger doesn’t do the job. Love the Wacom tablet on my Note and Tab devices. Invaluable.
  • Lucas Papaw Ointment (from Australia): I’m a very functional person and being so on the go, I love having one product that can be of multiple uses. Paw Paw is a papaya-based ointment that can be used as a topical application for cuts, scrapes and burns. It’s eco-friendly, sustainable and can even be used as a lip-balm. Perfect for streamlining your everyday carry.

Aspen Briefcase in CamoA trusty comrade

15. What do you like about your Aspen Briefcase in Camo?

There are many things that I love about my Aspen Briefcase in Camo. The 2 main reasons would have to be the excess of pockets and storage areas. Being a very picky personality, every item I carry needs it’s own storage space that I can access quickly to. The zips on the outside to the multiple compartments in the interior makes it a perfect daily companion.

The second thing I love about the Aspen Briefcase is the look of it. The rugged blend of brown leather and camo makes it versatile with any outfit, from casual to corporate, weekend outing to the boardroom. The Camo is also lightweight while the leather is tough and durable. Great combo!

16. Describe how the Aspen Briefcase in Camo fits your style.

My natural state tends to overdress slightly. So the Aspen Briefcase in Camo helps me balance that out. I’m not a very hip/cool person, but I’ve certainly gotten comments that the pairing works out great.

 

Explore Storyteller’s social media accounts:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kevinou/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/iamkevinou

 

Website:

KEVINOU, Inc: http://www.imkevinou.com

The Lumenere Group: http://www.lumenere.com

The Gentleman’s Pride: http://www.thegentlemanspride.com

JeweLuxe: http://www.singaporejewelfest.com

Sparkk//Space: http://www.sparkk-space.com 

 

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STORYTELLERS WE LOVE is a monthly series that sets out to uncover different forms of storytelling in the world, by engaging influencers in their own right and thought leaders in their industry. We believe that their stories and way of storytelling will foster Gnome & Bow’s vision to inspire personal storytelling without boundaries.


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