The man who created G.O.D.
Pushing the boundaries of design and not shying away from the occasional controversy are the defining characteristics that architect turned designer Douglas Young applies to his G.O.D. (Goods of Desire) brand. Born in Hong Kong and educated in the UK, Young set up G.O.D. in 1996 with business partner Benjamin Lau.
G.O.D. won the Hong Kong Design Centre’s 2004 Design for Asia Award and was listed among the best retail stores in the world by Britain’s Retail Weekly magazine. There are currently eight G.O.D. outlets in Hong Kong, while its products are also widely available in department stores worldwide.
Through his designs, Young says his vision is to make people think. A vibrant optimist, he was recently featured in Growth in a Difficult Decade, a book that profiles successful entrepreneurs from across the globe.
What led to you setting up G.O.D.?
While an architect through training, I have always been interested in design. I wanted to start a business based around contemporary furniture, fashion, homeware and lifestyle accessories that reflected Hong Kong culture. G.O.D.’s Cantonese name means “live better”. In English, it just happens to sound like a provocative set of initials.
What advice would you give to young people who are not sure how to market their ideas?
My own motto is to seek a niche and a reason to introduce a new brand or product. I would also say you cannot be creative and conservative at the same time. If you are young and enterprising, you must give your dreams a try or you will regret it in the future. Failure rates are high for new businesses, therefore it’s best to start small so that costs are kept to a minimum.
How do you measure success?
As a business, success is measured according to bottom-line figures. As a human being, though, I measure success in terms of the satisfaction gained through my design work and the type of fulfilment that satisfies my intellect. These two concepts of success may not be the same; I frequently find myself having to balance such conflicts.
What pleases you the most personally: sales, recognition of your work or the design process?
Naturally, business success and recognition of my work give me a lot of pleasure. My greatest pleasure is in seeing the birth of a product after months of development from an original idea. The design side of my business is where I tend to focus more of my attention.
What keeps you awake at night?
I would have to say it is business-related matters, but more often than not, these are products of my own imagination and not worth the worry.
What do you consider to be your most important success so far both in business and personally?
Business-wise, I am glad G.O.D. has become indelibly linked to Hong Kong culture. Some may say, in fact, that it is the quintessential Hong Kong brand. On a personal level, through hard work and perseverance, I have been able to make a business out of my interest.
Where would you like your business to be in five to 10 years?
I would like G.O.D. to be a flag-flier for Hong Kong culture in different parts of the world. By collaborating with other sectors and brands, our future direction is to use the G.O.D. philosophy to expand Asian lifestyle into other sectors of the market.
How useful was living and being educated both in Hong Kong and the UK?
Living in Hong Kong enables me to have an insider’s knowledge. However, having lived in the UK enables me to also see Hong Kong from an outsider’s perspective. Consequently, my work involves crossing the cultural barrier.
How do you motivate your staff during periods of economic uncertainty?
As the saying goes, “When times get tough, the tough get going.” We remind each other that, together, we can get through challenging periods. The ability to weather challenging times is what we look for when we hire staff. Personally, I look for people with a sense of humour, which is a good indication of that person’s attitude towards a wide range of life-related issues.