This year’s spring/summer is a challenging time for every fashion brand. Despite the uncertainties and challenges brought by COVID-19 pandemic, fashion designers and brands are thinking outside the box and swiftly respond to the “new normal” with their creativity.
Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview three Hong Kong fashion designers, Angus Tsui, Arto Wong and Yeung Chin, who have participated in CENTRESTAGE, the Asia’s fashion spotlight, which has transformed into a digital fashion showcase with a series of virtual runway shows, offering launch and marketing platform for fashion brands and designers.
Angus Tsui, a designer who has a passion on sustainability, sought to create a label that would advocate for and utilise environmental sustainability in every aspect of its design process—without compromising on aesthetic or quality. This year, with the economy hard hit by the pandemic, he focuses on his educational charity project, ANCares, which coordinates workshops, seminars and exhibitions on the topic of sustainability with NGOs such as St. James Settlement, Friends of the Earth and Redress. He has worked directly with companies such as Swire Properties, Cathay Pacific and H&M to create upcycled uniforms and accessories via sustainable processes.
Arto Wong graduated with a BA in Fashion and Textiles Design and Knitwear Design with Technology as her major from Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The designer was crowned with the Champion and secured the New Talent Award at the Hong Kong Young Fashion Designers’ Contest (YDC) in 2017, and launched her namesake label in the following year. Arto’s designs break out of traditional knitwear styles and shapes, pushing the boundaries of knitwear by experimenting with different techniques and material combinations.
Yeung Chin established his namesake brand in 2013, striving to challenge traditional aesthetic standard in the fashion industry with new concepts and art forms, including performance, film and sculpture. Before launching his brand, Yeung won the Special Mention Award at the 2009 Hong Kong Young Fashion Designers’ Contest. His collections were then showcased at different fashion weeks and events including London, Milan, Paris, New York, Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing. Yeung is an enthusiast in art collaboration projects, and he has worked with Singapore Design Centre, Hong Kong Heritage Museum and Hong Kong Asia Society Gallery, PMQ deTour and K11 Art Space among others.
RiA: How do you see the fashion design landscape evolving in Hong Kong?
Angus Tsui: Hong Kong designer brands are transforming their works into something inspiring with the diversity of aesthetic and it is going to change the current scene of our fashion industry. We are able to spread the brand’s beliefs and connect our target audiences seamlessly with the use of social media and technology.
Arto Wong: Hong Kong fashion designers are spotted by international market nowadays, such as Ka Wa Key and JORDAN. I believe they will help to boost the reputation of Hong Kong fashion design and more attentions will be paid on Hong Kong design.
Yeung Chin: In these few years, many organizations are helping the fashion industry; however, the strategies / methods are still a bit conservative. We should not stay the same as every where else, we should have a new or unique way that represent the industry here in Hong Kong. We should bring out the craftsmanship in fashion and textile through education. Designers should have more resources for the craftsmanship and factories should help re-invent, so that Hong Kong designers can present their collections with these unique craftsmanship to the world.
RiA: Has pandemic somehow boosted the interest for local design?
Angus Tsui: Innovation is always the key.
When the pandemic reminds us there are limits to our travels, transportations and even social life of the community, it makes perfect sense that people from both industry professionals and customers start paying more attentions to the innovative designs from local brands. Like the first ever virtual show we have just presented with Fashion Hong Kong in CENTRESTAGE demonstrated a brand new presentation format and creative solution during the crisis.
Arto Wong: The pandemic provided a break for all of us to think about what we actually need in our life. We will think about the issue of supply chain. I believe some of them would like to explore more “Hong Kong brand and production”.
Yeung Chin: After the “made-in-HK” incident, more people have paid attention to Hong Kong fashion. These years, more organizations have supported Hong Kong fashion, but I think in order to cultivate people to be interested in the local design, educating kids about appreciating art/ design is very important. Hong Kong designers have been working very hard throughout these years, it will be great if more people can pay attention to the local design.
RiA: Fashion designers have been looking at ways to integrate sustainability in their mission, how do you see the seasonless movement started in Europe and its evolution?
Angus Tsui: With sustainability as part of our founding cores, we have newly developed a pattern making system for our collection that is inspired by the current global trend of customisation. Every garment part of our design piece is interchangeable and there is no limitation in terms of the season, we can even present a collar or sleeves in the future for customers’ replacements.
Arto Wong: This movement will impact a lot on the whole fashion industry. More fashion labels take responsible on sustainability, more customers will care about this issues. It is a cycle.
Yeung Chin: Sustainable is a trend. But it is not something that is affordable. I had once joined a project using sustainable fabric for the whole collection, the fabric was around $100/ yard even when sponsored. The government should allocate more resources in the research and development in sustainability instead of allocating the resources in something superficial, such as fireworks.
Sustainable fashion is a trend in Europe, besides doing the same, we can actually do one more thing in advance. For example, we can use the traditional oriental way of weaving with natural elements.
Sustainability should be educated to people. It is not only about the fabric that we use, but the process, whether it is really helping the environment, is also important. Sustainability / Zero waste is not just merely an idea or a slogan.
RiA: CENTRESTAGE has gained more traction in the past few years, how do you see the event evolving in the Asian scenario?
Angus Tsui: You can definitely see that CENTRESTAGE is evolving speedily throughout the years, we strongly believe that we will change the current scenes together with local fashion forces.
Arto Wong: Centerstage is a fashion label focusing event. It can help gather various Hong Kong fashion brands to make a bigger noise!
Yeung Chin: Hong Kong fashion week is doing better these years, but the focus in Asia is still in Japan/ Korea/ Shanghai. We were doing better than Shanghai before, but now they are ahead of us.
Firstly, they support designers from the older generations, as well as the new ones; whereas in Hong Kong, we can only see new designers in fashion week. It is very good to support young designers, but we should also consider their maturity. Secondly, we have a lot of restrictions in Hong Kong doing fashion presentations in terms of space, facilities, etc; however, in Shanghai, organizers will give the space to designers and designers can do whatever they want to present their collections. All parts should not have restrictions, even if it is just lighting effects, in order to organize a good quality fashion presentation, as it is all about aesthetics.
Digital shows will be a trend for sure. It is a norm in fashion weeks. In order to make it better ad unique and be a leader in Asia’s fashion industry, we should take this chance to collaborate with Hong Kong’s talents in advertising and movie industry to make some high quality, outstanding fashion films.