For many people out there, they often settle into a cozy job that while not exactly stimulating, offers security and balance. Despite this in mind, Almost Normal founder Florence Yip took the plunge to try her hand from an independent angle as an upstart brand. The recent launch of Almost Normal’s watch and figure set featured an interesting backdrop developed by husband and partner, Michael Lau, whose well-known illustrative style has made him one of Hong Kong’s most well-known creatives on the global scene. The collection involving several watch styles are further paired with owl-inspired figures that function both upside-down and right-side up. If you get a chance to handle the watches, you’ll notice an abundance of detail throughout from the dial to the casing and straps. The collection is available now at select retailers including colette and OH WOAW.
We had a chance to speak with Florence and Michael at the OH WOAW store in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong about this latest endeavor and her feelings about starting up a new project such as this.
How does this project differ from your previous marketing work with Nike?
Florence: I think marketing is also a creative outlet like Almost Normal, but of course it’s a different form of art with a different visual element. Creativity doesn’t have to be for your own self and at the end of the day, it’s also a service. However when I work for myself, it stems more from my personal passion rather than fulfilling the needs of somebody else.
Did you have an input into Michael’s creations for this project?
Florence: Definitely, although I’ve initiated the core idea, Michael had been giving me feedback from the start on how to execute the concept into reality. I am more of a creator for this project and Michael has been connecting the dots for me.
As a couple, is it easier to work together in such project?
Michael: A lot harder [laughs], because there are feelings involved. I also have to do it as she’s my wife [laughs]. People have been helping me throughout my career, so I should help my wife when she wants to do something creative. It’s also interesting for me to work with something that isn’t too male orientated, as I get to explore and learn other areas of design through this project.
Florence: I do feel lucky as my husband is a creative and also it makes it easier for me to pursue my personal dreams. There are so many people out there who have great ideas they want to execute but can’t due to different factors. So yeah, having him on board definitely makes things easier [laughs].
Can you talk us through the design of the Owl figure?
Michael: We actually did the line of watches first, as our friend is in the watchmaking business and also I’ve worked with watches before in my past projects. This collaboration with Florence is like a reflection of my previous figure and watch sets, hence the natural progression for this project. Florence is like an Owl, as she sleeps late and likes weird things [laughs], so the design of the Owl is based on her image.
Florence: I prefer writing more than illustrating, so normally I’m the one who’ll generate the words and he’ll visualize them into illustrations or figures.
Michael: It’s a fun process, as the end product is always a mix of male and female ideas and characteristics.
What are the inspirations of the watches?
Florence: The distinct features of Owls first inspired me; one of them is the ability to rotate their heads and necks as much as 270 degrees in either direction. This was the starting point of the design as you can see how it has influenced me on the face of the watches. I also introduced some philosophical ideas into the mix. For example, when you look at your watch, you can only really see the strap that is closest to you, while others can see the strap that is on the other side of the watch. The idea is about how people see you and how you see yourself, as it can be different. We wanted the design to be classic and unisex and with close inspection, one can pick out the different unique elements that we’ve added in. It also stays true to the brand’s philosophy, “Almost Normal.”
Do you have an ultimate aim for this label?
Florence: I would love to work more on “Almost Normal” down the line, but at the moment we’re just in a trial state and we’ll have to see how people react to these projects. In the long run, I do hope I can work on this with all my time.
Are there any other products to follow?
Florence: We have more accessories to come from the label. Coming from a jewellery design background, I want to make things that are not too restricted to the higher society – I want my products to be young, subtle, youthful and accessible.
Michael Lau: Maybe more watches? They’re fun to produce but we believe the ideas we apply can really drive the product. I feel that figures such as the ones I make don’t have the same value level as watches, so that’s also one of the reasons why we want to explore more into the realm of timepieces.
Any last words?
Florence: I do feel fulfilled to be able to do something I’ve always wanted to do after years of working for other companies. And I do wish that other people would take it upon themselves to go out there and start working on their ultimate dreams. You won’t know unless you try.