Creativity brings fame for young designers
By CORINNE MOORE
WINNING the Young Designers' Show at Hong Kong Fashion Week can open doors for new talent.
The show is the climax of the international Asian extravaganza, and demand for tickets is overwhelming. This year, the eyes of an international audience will be set on design students and young professionals making their debut.
Wong Sin-yee, the overall winner last year, has gone on to bigger and better things. Since receiving her award, she has set up her own company, A Design Company, with Samantha Fung, the winner of the 1993 knitwear category.
Ms Wong seized the ''once in a lifetime'' opportunity to enter the Young Designers' Show.
''At 29, I realised that it was my last chance to take part, as the age limit for participants is 30,'' she said.
The show gives young designers an opportunity to experiment with new fabric and original treatments.
''It was a wonderfully creative experience, the chance to express myself and explore new ideas through my designs. It gave me freedom to experiment,'' she said.
Ms Wong's specialty is woven fabric, so she took part in the non-knitwear section. She prefers simple silhouettes accentuated by subtle detail.
The use of earth-toned mud silk in her collection, Square Roots or The China Collection, was a bold move.
''Traditionally, it is regarded as the fabric of the older generation, used for padded jackets, so the choice was a risk,'' she said.
It was a gamble that paid off. The result of her labour was a highly wearable collection, adored by the European press for its understated yet unmistakably Chinese flair quietly blended with an original, contemporary mood.
No glitz, no glamour, just beautifully conceived clothing.
Ms Wong described the garments as those that reflect the dreams and myths of Chinese folk culture, inspired by a walk through a small village in southern China.
An antique print of a 19th century Chinese woman, forms the simple pattern on a full-length brown mud silk dress, with side split and quilted lining: soft, elegant and unmistakably chic.
Reversible men's jackets, and quilted waistcoats are modern, masculine adaptations of peasant clothing - they look like soft leather but are comfortable mud silk.
Her collection later won acclaim in Dusseldorf and Paris where she was hailed as the darling of the catwalk.
A Design Company caters to high fashion evening and casual wear for the overseas market, and runs a commercial line for the local and Chinese market. It is geared to the basic wardrobe of the career woman.
''Winning the show has given me exposure to people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds that I would not otherwise have met and has been a source of inspiration,'' she said.
Samantha Fung's knit-wear collection breaks the barriers between East and West, derived from the ethnic look of Chinese minority tribes and adapted to Western silhouettes.
''I took the Chinese character for a person and turned it on its head so that it resembles the letter Y. From there, I developed the theme of unity, the joining together of peoples through harmonious design,'' she said.
Multi-coloured garments in burgundy, mauve, olive and navy, taken from the mainland tribes of Nan Yan and Hong Nan island, hit the right note with judges and led to her award.
Since last year's competition, the two women have been working to expand their range.
''We are currently exploring possibilities to establish agency relationships for both the local and overseas markets,'' said Ms Fung.
For such a talented pair of designers that dream may well become a reality.
Tapis Volante (flying carpet) or One Thousand and One Nights is the name of Barney Cheng's collection for the ex-winners' segment of the Young Designers' Show.
Winner of the young designers' non-knitwear category last year, Mr Cheng is making a name for himself in the world of haute couture, dressing Hong Kong's top performing artists.
''Inspiration for my evening wear comes from the mystical world of fables in the land we call Indochine and beyond,'' said Mr Cheng, who set up his own company, Yenrabi Ltd, and designs two labels, Chang Cheng Castaigne and S'cusi d'Ove.
Think of Persian carpets, Oriental mysticism and Aladdin, and you are on the right track. Taking a cue from traditional garments such as the Indian sari, the collection is a concoction of billowy silks and crisp metallics.
Re-embellished tulle, iridescent silk chiffon, organza silk, laminated gold guipure lace, metallic jacquard morrocaine crepe and embroidered gold lace are used extensively to create a shimmering Oriental feel.
The opulence of the fabrics calls for understated designs.
''I've chosen a range of easy co-ordinating pieces like over-chemises, crop waistcoats, bandeau, open vests, pyjama pants, empire-waisted sheaths and draped wrap skirts that can be mixed to provide a contrast both in length, volume and texture,'' he said.
''The overall effect is a blend of the rough with the delicate and the lean with the voluminous.'' One outfit set to steal the show is a 100 per cent silk organza reversible full-length duster swing coat, worn over a cotton tulle bouffant skirt with holographic sequins and raffia embroidered bib.