One late night of writing, I was trying to decide what occupation would best fit the character of Ferdinand. I knew he was wealthy and successful in a career he built himself, but I didn’t want him to be in finance or law or any of your typical New York stereotypes. Rather, he needed to have an artistic temperament and a soulful nature, and I wanted him to have built a business from the ground up on his own toil and merit. I was stumped as to what that profession would be, and I went to bed, tabling it for later.
The next day I received a lovely and brief little message from a wonderful person I am fortunate enough to call a friend named Zang Toi. If you don’t know the name, I'll familiarize you. He’s an artistic genius and an all-around lovely human being, caring and engaging. He’s also very successful, but the first quality you might observe in him is his humility. He’s the last to take a spotlight, although he often finds himself thrust in one, as is a necessity for his business.
Zang moved to New York from Malaysia in his 20s to pursue a career in fashion, and through a great deal of persistence and talent, he has built himself a very respected brand name at the high end of the fashion world, selling chic urban styles and stunning regal gowns that always manage to receive standing ovations at fashion week runway shows. Some of them sell in the tens of thousands of dollars range and all are true works of art and craftsmanship.
How we became friends is a long story, but suffice to say as an aspiring actor he is not much like my usual crowd of acquaintances. The rare occasions I get to hang out with Zang at a swanky restaurant or in his luxurious and impeccable Marie Antoinette-themed apartment, I feel a lot like Cinderella counting down to midnight. I'm often struck by the fact that he has made himself a friend to me just for the sake of companionship and good conversation when by all accounts of logic and experience, it's arguably a waste of his valuable time.
Looking at his text message, it instantly hit me that of course this lovable fashion icon would be my template for Ferdinand, and I began writing, already eager to show the result to Zang. Over drinks one night a few weeks later, I laid it on him, and he was into it. Not only did he like the idea, but he wanted to get involved.
A few more drinks (mostly consumed by myself) and some excited conversation later, it was decided that the dress that Ferdinand creates for April as well as the sketch that he draws for it in the film will be one-of-a-kind Zang Toi creations. After the film wraps, we plan to auction these stunning dresses off for charity.