Flanked by towering models in her glamorous but wearable evening wear, Hong Kong native Susanna Soo took in the applause at her S.Nine autumn-winter 2013 show at The Space, Sheung Wan last Wednesday.
Petite even in six-inch heels, Soo has become a big presence in the Hong Kong fashion scene, with a host of celebrity fans including Kelly Chan Wai-lam, Sammi Cheng Sau-man and Karen Mok Man-wai. At the show, socialites, other young designers and models such as Cara Grogan came to show their support.
"I don't believe in trends. My clothes are a mix of serious couture fashion and wearable chic fashion, a mix of classic and functional. They are feminine and modern," says Soo, describing the S.Nine aesthetic. "People say I do practical clothing, day-to-night wear, clothes that are great for women who have no time."
Soo's latest collection is inspired by Paul Gauguin's Tahiti paintings, and it is something of a departure for her in terms of technique. "I interpreted those [paintings] in a luxury way. I see the attitude of the females in those pictures, how bold and strong they are," says Soo, saying that she added "city survivor" and "modern scavenger" element using burgundy hues and rustic gold elements.
"I am exploring structure and tailoring with this collection, and experimenting with new techniques and new materials," she says, an approach exemplified by the Swarovski crystals.
Soo, 31, is becoming one of the city's most talked about designers, partly because of her overseas credentials. An alumni of the prestigious Parsons The New School For Design in New York where she studied fashion design, Soo remained in the city after graduation by securing a coveted apprenticeship at Diane von Furstenberg.
"I learned the business of fashion at DVF. I admired how she could fuse business and fashion to create very wearable, very fashionable clothes." Soo next spent time working for contemporary womenswear label LaROK; winning an arts of fashion award in 2008 from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art opened doors to Paris and the world of couture.
Soo began her second apprenticeship at the atelier of Parisian couturier Anne Valerie Hash. "I learned about the serious side of fashion: how an atelier works, teamwork, and working from sample to production," she says.
S.Nine was launched in 2009. "I chose the name S.Nine because my maiden name, Ngo, was a hard to pronounce. That isn't great for starting a new brand," she says with a laugh. "The 'S' and 'N' are my initials, and the number nine is my birth month.
"I wanted a name that was contemporary, not something too polished, a name that that felt ready to wear."
Soo is hopeful her successes will help the fledgling independent fashion scene in Hong Kong.
"For the longest time, we had foreign brands coming in, but things are changing," she says.
"I hope the scene keeps growing and I hope to play a part and inspire people, and not just fashion but all creative pursuits. It is really needed here."