Stylish first lady

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 December, 1999, 12:00am

Jackie Kennedy Onassis had what Hong Kong now craves: her own original sense of style.

Jackie: Power And Style (Pearl, 8.25pm), recalls the woman who apparently brought style to what is described as a nation of hicks, though Louise Brooks and many other earlier stylish icons would have disagreed with such an interpretation of her influence.

Previous first ladies of the United States also fare badly in this exaltation of Jackie.

While she is described as the first to be beautiful, stylish and young, they are all dismissed as being 'plain, fat and old' frumps who wore tasteless floral frocks.

Jackie burnt all her private papers before she died of cancer in 1994, so this programme does not add anything new to the Jackie story. It is, instead, a reminder that America once had an icon more royal in character, style and culture than Princess Diana. Nor is it up-to-date, describing her legacy as a successful parent in the form of the up-and-coming J F Kennedy Junior, who was killed earlier this year in a plane accident.

Joan Juliet Buck, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, makes much of the fact that she did not just look good, but had class, the 'old money look' of aristocracy, meaning she was above caring what she looked like. She also brought a taste of Europe to the White House - the American-born Jackie had completed her education in Paris. 'Style comes from the inside, fashion comes from the outside,' Buck reminds all of those who crave what she had.

Although her life was marred by tragedy, she had all the gifts men desire: looks, style, brains and culture. It is a shame that none of that was enough for her president husband, who was notorious for his dallyings with other women. But that story is not touched on in this deferential homage.

Hong Kong's quest for style is featured in Inside Story (World, 6.55pm). Hong Kong has the reputation of being the copycat capital of fashion. But in a student fashion competition last week, the local entrant, Mo Kwok-wah, a fresh graduate from Kwun Tong Technical Institute, was criticised for entering designs judged to be too avant-garde.

Hong Kong is the world's second largest exporter of clothes, second only to the mainland, and the rag trade remains a key element of the SAR's economy.

But rather than manufacturing and exporting other people's designs, those in the industry believe it is time for Hong Kong to become a name to rival Milan.

Arkin Ng, of the Textile and Garment Industry Revitalisation Committee, predictably believes it has what it takes and is better placed that Italy in terms of enjoying a pool of skilled labour.

Louise Wong finds out that it even has the talented designers, who were well received at the Australian Fashion Week and Tokyo Collection.

What they don't have, though, is adequate support as they set out in their careers.

This programme shows that Hong Kong has gone a long way since the early 1960s, when its tacky exports would have failed to meet the style requirements of Jackie Kennedy.