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Hello Gorgeous: Joseph Bennett, Emmy-Winning Production Designer

He’s worked with Alexander McQueen and for the Queen, conceived award-winning sets for HBO TV show Rome, and designed the phenomenal Alexander McQueen: Savage Beautyexhibition, for the Met New York and London’s V&A. Next up, multi-gonged creative director and production designer Joseph Bennett is in Hong Kong, applying his magic to JOYCE’s 46th birthday celebrations, with a first-of-its kind immersive fashion event, ‘The Golden Needle’. LUXE caught up with the genial, dapper Brit as he prepared for the event.

Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.

I studied at art school and my background is a mix of theatre, film, design; I work on commercials and on exhibitions like the one on Lee McQueen in New York and London. And I’ve done a couple of theatrical installations for luxury brands, like for Louis Vuitton in London and Tokyo. I love exhibitions with theatrical involvement, technical and immersive theatre.

How did the JOYCE X Joseph Bennett collaboration come about?

They wanted something different, not your typical event – it’s an amalgam, and I’m all for it, I’m all for trying things out. I have a multi-disciplinary background and anything goes, as long as it’s going to be interesting.

What’s the concept for The Golden Needle?

I don’t want to give too much away! It’s an exhibition plus theatre (Les Enfants Terribles theatre group is performing). But it’s a narrative story about fashion. It will encapsulate the ethos of JOYCE.

How did you approach the project?

JOYCE’s codification of pieces is quite selective – they curate their collections, so I wanted to relate it to their approach to fashion, tailoring and Hong Kong hence the name Golden Needle. First I divvy up the space, think about appropriate moods for each space and work with the fashion to create different environments.

But at a certain point you have to trust in the process and let it grow, so it has an organicness to it. With a narrative to the story accept it will change – even between now and Friday – to some extent.

What can visitors expect of the event?

I’m excited about the audience experience; I hope they will find it fun, enjoyable, informative and mostly experiential – it’s a theatrical fashion event!

Where do you find inspiration?

Wherever I can find it! Seeing stuff… photographs, film, art and layering of references. Films are often a good reference, and older photographers like Lartigue – I have a lot of old photographic books. I love how ideas evolve; it’s good fun.

Fashion show and set designer, film maker, exhibition architect… what aspect of your work excites you most?

The collaboration and trying to come up with new ways of expressing aesthetics. Personally I respond to working collaboratively – it keeps you on your toes!  

What was it like working with Lee McQueen on his fashion shows?

His work is so incredible, so special. I did the architecture [for the shows] but the clothes are at the core and are so amazing. He made you push boundaries, he didn’t conform, he’d always ask for what seemed to be the impossible but rather than going ‘it’s not possible’ we’d find ways to make it work.

Your advice to the next-gen designers?

I tell my kids to find something you really love doing and you’ll probably become good at it. Every job has chore-sey aspects and stress, but stress is good. Hard work is good. I don’t like the idea of not working… but there are [relaxing] things I do that go hand in hand with work, like going fishing.

Which artists do you most admire?

Oh loads, there are some really great people… Lee McQueen, Nick Knight, Warren Du Preez, Rodakowski, Orson Welles, Tchaikovsky…

What are your first impressions of Hong Kong?

Lack of space, high density, surrounded by green hills. It has a lot more western people than I imagined and as a Brit it doesn’t feel that foreign.

And where to next?

I’m going on holiday to Cambodia, then Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam.

The Golden Needle, designed by Joseph Bennett, with fashion direction by Oliver Châtenet  and choreography by James Seager of Les Enfants Terribles, runs 16-16 October at JOYCE, New World Tower, Central. Open to all members of the public you can register online at

Want more Hong Kong insider info? Nab a LUXE Hong Kong guide

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Published 14 October 2016.

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