A Tailor-Made Approach to Philanthropy

Joseph Wong’s penchant for fashion started at an early age. As a teenager, he was roused by the vibrancy and variety of the Japanese and Italian designs that ruled Toronto in the 1970s and 1980s, a stark contrast to the strict world of school uniforms he had left behind in his native Hong Kong.

“Fashion and design opened new avenues of creative self-expression for me,” says Joseph. "Freedom of choice is a luxury, newness is refreshing, and the combination is intoxicating.”

It was a Versace retrospective exhibition staged by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York that prompted the realization that a museum might be interested in acquiring some of the rare and exceptional items from his own wardrobe. He made his first gift-in-kind donation to ROM soon after: a few prized Versace pieces.

“My acquisitions reflected my enjoyment of the Toronto design scene and therefore, it’s only fitting that the pieces stay in Toronto,” says Joseph. “I was also aware of the ROM’s strength in textile preservation, so it was an easy decision.”

Through these early gifts, Joseph met Dr. Alexandra Palmer, the Nora E. Vaughan Fashion Costume Senior Curator at ROM. The two continued to collaborate over the ensuing decades as Joseph routinely donated select pieces from his personal collection, and he learned more about Dr. Palmer’s research into a topic that had long fascinated him: French haute couture.

Dr. Palmer’s extensive research at Dior and tireless work to mount ROM’s Christian Dior retrospective in 2017 opened Joseph’s eyes to the need for funding and inspired him to establish the Joseph C.F. Wong Expendable Fund to support her research financially during his lifetime and the Joseph C.F. Wong Endowed Fund for Fashion & Design, a legacy commitment in his estate that will protect and maintain ROM’s fashion and textile collections into the future.

By making this bequest and including ROM in his will, Joseph also joined the Currelly Legacy Society, an inspiring group of donors who are securing the future of ROM through gifts of all types and sizes. Members enjoy exclusive activities, access to lifelong learning opportunities, and much more.

“While my early donations were made in-kind and in memory of those who have passed, time and circumstances over the years have made me realize the importance of living and finding joy in the moment,” says Joseph. “These funds allow me to celebrate the present and will hopefully provide enjoyment and enlightenment for future generations. More importantly, they allow me to express my gratitude for a most enjoyable dialogue with Dr. Palmer for over 20 years.”

Endowment funds are a tangible way to further the research and acquisitions you care about at ROM. To learn more, contact Janice Correa at jcorrea@rom.on.ca.

Image: Brian K. Hill via Joseph Wong