Hong Kong designer Johanna Ho, who has just launched her first menswear range, talks about "local" fashion, "normal" bodies and how motherhood has changed her designs.
Hong Kong has a fledgling independent fashion scene. What needs to be done to take the local industry to the next level? "I think there can be more support from the local government and trade people recognising the importance of nurturing local talents. Not just by doing initial marketing work like fashion shows, but helping in the sense of actual business support; from factories and manufacturing support to the know-how of setting up a business and its structure. Making money is one thing, but taking necessary risks to build up local creative talent is not only important for the next generations but for building up a modern Hong Kong that is full of exciting and interesting local culture, art and design."
Has becoming a mother changed the way you approach your work? "Definitely. Especially when responsibilities have completely shifted from the singular to the plural. Before it was all about me, myself and I; now that I am the mother of two girls, there's definitely more pressure when it comes to how I run my business. I always strive for a balance between creativity and commerciality when it comes to my designs, now even more so. I also became more sensitive in my creativity and designs. One thing for sure is that as I accept the realities of maturity, I am also more aware of the changes to one's body; hence I strive to create designs that are not only beautiful and cool but, most importantly, flattering to most body types - normal human beings with normal bodies."
What inspires your designs? "Everything inspires me, especially people. I like to design clothes for people, real people. I love it when I see women who often don't have ideal model bodies looking great in my clothes. Nowadays, I really believe trends are dead, and that being who you are and creating one's own style is the way to go."
Where is the most inspiring place for you, from a style perspective? "Having spent most of my childhood years living in England, I must admit that the UK, not just London, definitely inspires me a lot. I have always been fascinated by its history and its people, who I think are the real leaders of second-hand, vintage clothing - hence all those street-fashion styles. I love the fact that British people are not afraid of dressing for who they are, and many don't just blindly follow trends."