It’s a long way from Vancouver to Milan, but it’s a journey Timothy Hung is very familiar with. As a freelance makeup artist with deep roots in the fashion industry, he feels perfectly at home working in Italy’s style Mecca. He should do. He spent three years studying fashion in the city, sandwiched around a year shining on the Makeup Program at the Blanche Macdonald Centre.
Actually, there’s very little Timothy doesn’t shine at. He’s a brilliant makeup artist and an award-winning fashion designer. He’s also an accomplished pianist and composer, and a budding movie production designer. He has a cracking sense of humour too.
“I’m a crazy perfectionist,” he laughs. “I always try to exceed people’s expectations. I either motivated my classmates or drove them insane!”
If Timothy set a high standard for his colleagues at Blanche Macdonald, it was only because that’s the standard he set for himself. Although, ironically, it was an unlucky break that brought him to Canada’s top makeup school to begin with.
“Fashion came first,” he admits. “I went to Eric Hamber High School in Vancouver and they have a really huge fashion faculty that inspired me to do design. I was always interested in fashion. My mum and grandma are both great seamstresses. I thought I should do something with the skills I've learned.”
While at high school the young Timothy entered, and won, numerous fashion contests, culminating by being recognised as one of the city’s Top Ten Young Designers at Vancouver Fashion Week in both 2002 and 2003.
Still, Timothy had ambitions further afield. He enrolled and was accepted to the prestigious Istituto Marangoni in Milan to study Fashion Design. It turned out to be a spectacular location for Plan A to be derailed.
“I wasn’t partying. I don’t drink. I worked really, really hard and was only sleeping four or five hours a night. I just neglected my nutrition and completely screwed up my health. One day my lung collapsed. I had an operation and came back to Canada. And a few weeks later my lung collapsed again. Apparently the doctors in Italy missed a spot.”
Every cloud, even a collapsed lung shaped cloud, has a silver lining.
“I knew I couldn’t get back to Italy straight away,” explains Timothy. “I needed time to recover. I didn’t want to waste my time. I wanted to learn more. So I enrolled in the Makeup Program at Blanche Macdonald a month after I left the hospital.
“I knew a few people who were working makeup artists. They’d all studied at Blanche Macdonald and gave the school great reviews. Fashion and makeup go hand in hand, so I thought if I knew how to do makeup, in the future when I would be doing fashion design I’d know what I want to complete the image. I’d played with makeup before, with my sister as my guinea pig, but I came here with no professional knowledge. I came as a blank canvas to pick up all the knowledge I could.
“I had amazing instructors! My fundamentals teacher was Jon Hennessey. That was a great base for me to study makeup. It was very inspirational. I was very impressed by the school and how things were done here. Working on each other’s makeup in class was fun. I was made over so many times!
“A month after coming to school I heard Yves Saint Laurent was looking for a makeup artist. I applied and I got the job. A month into makeup school and I was already working!”
Timothy was working for MAC by the time he graduated makeup school, but he turned down a full-time contract to complete what he’d started, and returned to Milan to complete his fashion design education.
“My outlook and my focus in Italy were different after I’d been to Blanche Macdonald,” he continues. “My standards were very high. I’m good with computers. I guess that started at Blanche Macdonald where we gained a lot of experience on them.”
Timothy graduated Istituto Marangoni with perfect marks and was soon immersed in the Milanese fashion world as an intern with Dsquared2 and Studio Conca. Still, Timothy understood that in a city and an industry with a never-ending supply of eager free labour, the road to success, even for an award-winning designer, would be long, hard and paved with tears. Wisely, Timothy was already embracing his inner makeup artist.
“When I was in Italy I was always working at Fashion Week. Whenever Fashion Week approached I’d get an email from MAC. ‘Are you in Milan? Want to do this with us?’ I was continually doing shows every season. I did Dsquared2. I did Moschino. I did Roberto Cavalli. It’s amazing to see the clothing backstage. The feeling of being backstage with all these artists, models and designers you only see in magazines is quite the experience.”
Timothy had fulfilled his dream of being an integral makeup cog of the world’s most vibrant fashion city. The design would have to wait.
“I’m still in love with fashion,” he insists. “It’s always fun backstage because every show is different. Every designer has a different concept. So does every show. When I started I thought my focus would be fashion and my hobby would be makeup. Now my job is makeup and my hobby is fashion. When you do makeup you see the results straight away. When you do a design it’ll take a week to turn it from the paper to reality. I like the satisfaction of finishing something.”
Life is more than satisfying these days. A quick scan of Timothy’s facebook page reveals backstage photos of him with supermodels Elise Crombez and Heather Marks, and superstar singers Nelly Furtado and Rihanna (“She was very friendly,” he promises).
“People see me as a triple threat,” he continues. “I do makeup and hair, which I learnt at Blanche Macdonald, and styling with my fashion background. Every week in Italy I’d be doing photoshoots with magazines, agencies or photographers. Elle, Maxim, Moda. They don’t have to bring three people, just me. I was constantly getting jobs.”
Timothy will be back in Milan in the near future, but for the time being he’s back in his original hood in Vancouver. And the opportunities keep arriving.
“I did a music video in November with Romantic Child Studios for an artist called Two Fingers. Originally I was asked to be a model but after I told the director I did hair, makeup and styling. I did everything. Now we’re working on a feature film called Lullaby for a Lunatic. It’s a very interesting story. I’m the production designer, doing hair and makeup, set design and the music. They’re more experiences for me to explore.”
There’s one more virtue to add to Timothy’s mighty array. He’s modest too.
“Blanche Macdonald gave me the stepping stones to success. I followed that path to where I am today.”