If you go down to the woods today
OLD world romance is the key to the collections of two leading Hong Kong fashion designers to be presented during Fashion Week.
Allan Chiu was inspired by the folklore of forests for the 30 outfits in his autumn/winter '95 collection.
His models will appear like wood nymphs dressed in dreamy, feminine clothes and the effect will be reinforced with the use of flowers in their hair and brushwood as props.
Naturally, the colours of the forest are subdued hues of beige, brown, earth tones, khaki, navy and burgundy - dark shades that convey a sense of mystery. Occasionally, they combine in stripe combinations of brown with grey or navy.
'Texture helps add depth to the dark colours,' said Chiu, who has chosen to use wool, weaves, velvet, suede net, corduroy and leather.
Underscoring the theme of soft femininity are the rounded shoulders on the jackets and dresses.
'The silhouette is quite slim but with different waistlines,' said Chiu.
Besides regular waistlines, there are also empire lines, flowing gently outwards, and drop-waisted pieces.
Hemlines are equally itinerant, with skirt lengths going all the way from mini-skirts to knee-lengths to long. Trousers travel from the knee to the ankle and come in a variety of shapes. A new style incorporates a bustier and trousers in one piece.
As well as the casual and easy-to-wear co-ordinates, dresses form an important part of the collection.
'At the end, I am showing several outfits for cocktail and evening, also with high-waisted skirts,' said Chiu.
A feeling of medieval damsels is evoked with the use of ties and ribbons that wrap around the body - at the waist or under the bust - on dresses and tunic tops.
'The look is quite feminine, because the inspiration is from fairy-tales,' said Chiu. 'I wanted it to look a little bit like an angel.' Chiu has not forgotten his origins.
'For the whole collection, I have little Oriental touches, but not too much because I don't want it to look like a costume design,' he said.
On some pieces, he uses Chinese brocade and, elsewhere, he puts frog buttons on jackets. Sometimes the influence may be Japanese but it is only in details, not styling.
Chiu hopes Fashion Week will provide a channel to reach international markets. He already sells in Taiwan, Japan and Shanghai, though the latter is proving to be a slow starter.
The romantic imagination of designer Lulu Cheung was fired by the picture of an oil painting, which she developed into her 'Castles by the Sea' theme.
Problems with ordering fabric from Europe have forced Cheung to regroup the collection more than once and to use more Chinese silk than normal for the local market - albeit with interesting textures.
The end result, however, is a charming and elegant ensemble with a distinctly nostalgic flavour. Lengths are generally down to the ankle, in a look that Cheung describes as 'city wear but with a very leisurely feeling'.
The collection is divided into three sections; the first two being mostly casual wear and, the last, formal wear.
The story begins on a seashore.
'The dusty beiges, greys and browns are taken from the colour of the rocks by the sea and driftwood,' said Cheung.
Shapes are simple, with some quilted waistcoats and tops and fabrics, including wool jacquard and a viscose jacquard with a metallic mix.
'For the show and for designer labels, you always need something interesting to attract customers,' said Cheung.
She uses uneven cutting or elastic sewing to give texture.
The second group moves into the autumn garden of a castle, with shades of brown, rust and gold. The cutting becomes even more fancy and pockets feature a new design. Silk is used for suits and hand-printed silk chiffon and printed viscose also feature.
An interesting pure wool fabric with a filmy net-like quality lends itself to many of the designs.
The finale is inspired by the oil painting.
'The idea is of a party in a castle hall, where they have many paintings,' she said.
The colours seek to emulate those in the painting, with tones of fuchsia, purple and mustard to khaki, highlighted with black.
A nostalgic, feminine mood is evoked in this section of long dresses with high necklines and full skirts, featuring different cutting, in silk dupion and silk organza.
Cheung's love of flowers emerges in her handmade silk organza blooms covering tops and bodices or clustered at the waist.
The clothes in this collection are from Cheung's Terra Rosalis label, which provides good-quality easy-to-wear garments, and her new Lulu Cheung label, destined to cater for a more exclusive market.