Ranee Kok Ranee_K www.raneek.com BA in fashion design, Parsons School of Design It takes a certain type of person to go knocking on the doors of New York's trendy SoHo boutiques to persuade buyers to order from a collection by an unknown designer. But, armed with 16 samples and nothing to lose, that's just what Ranee Kok did. Her courage paid off with one buyer ordering about 30 pieces on the spot. The fresh graduate lived off the confidence this gave her and orders for two seasons before returning to test her talents in her home city five years ago. When did your passion for fashion begin? When I was small I enjoyed drawing. I loved to touch things and use my hands to make arts and crafts. When I went to high school I liked to cut up old garments and combine them with new fabrics. Your first degree was in accounting and finance. When did you realise you wanted to be a fashion designer? After my third year at [the University of British Columbia in Vancouver], I travelled with friends and family to New York. I was standing in SoHo looking at a window display and I thought: 'Wow. It would be so cool if one day my clothing could be sold here. That would be a dream come true.' I used my last year at university and another half a year to develop my portfolio so I could apply to the Parsons School of Design. What prompted you to set up your own label? There were lots of possibilities in New York. It's a melting pot. After graduating everyone was given a year's practical training. I worked in the marketing and design department at Donna Karan. I helped serve clients all over the world. During that internship I learned a lot about the business side of fashion. At that time I also produced 16 samples on my own. Since I was in New York I thought, okay, I'll try. A buyer saw my collection. She really liked it and ordered a few items. That really built up my confidence. Eventually I went to more shops and they liked my stuff and I started to sell to them. Describe your autumn/winter collection. The evening-wear line, Charm, is very colourful. Inspiration came from feathers and peacocks, therefore I used a lot of green and turquoise and some red. It has some oriental influences, like the Chine brooch which we have had for a few seasons (the Ranee K logo). It's mostly silk and chiffon - very floaty, very romantic and very feminine. One of my favourite pieces is the red lace cheongsam. I put a lot of detail in the long fishtail back and it has a lot of beading on it too. How would you describe your style? A lot of it has to do with my background and my upbringing. My style represents a mix of cultures. I was born in Hong Kong into a traditional Chinese family. Hong Kong was a British colony at that time therefore my education was more British. Now Hong Kong is part of China. I went to Canada and New York to study and became very interested in Oriental culture. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York they have a large section dedicated to Oriental art. And I was so curious... it has so much culture and history. And it inspired me to incorporate Chinese or oriental designs into my style. I just love to mix everything together: colours, fabrics, designs, old and new, west and east. What has been the most memorable challenge in your career so far? There have been a lot of challenges. It can be difficult emotionally. Because I don't have a partner I have to handle things on my own. I need to have a lot of motivation, self- discipline, and determination. You have to decide everything. And you have to face the consequences. What do you love most about your job? Creating. Since I have my own brand I can do things I love. It keeps me happy. First you have an idea and then you have to find something to support it so it will work. You have to look at fabrics, the cutting and sewing, the marketing and, eventually, a customer will try it on. The whole process is like magic. What makes a great fashion item? If a piece lasts for many seasons it becomes a classic, a legend. I want all my pieces to last for a long time. What are your future plans for the label? I've been focusing on managing the two shops in Hong Kong, and I have other design jobs on the go [a ready-to-wear collections for Shanghai Tang and uniforms for the Hong Kong Jockey Club among them]. I'm doing personal image consulting as well so I stopped creating for the overseas market but I do want to start that up again. I want to break into the Japanese market. I already have a lot of Japanese clients, and I have had Japanese press interest. Eventually the China market will need to be considered but of course that will need a lot of planning. As a judge at this year's Young Fashion Designers' Contest at World Boutique, what is your opinion of Hong Kong's emerging designers? I think that there's a lot of talent about. To my surprise some of the contestants were very mature so they must have had experience in the fashion world. Although many are still learning, I felt that some young designers were innovative and creative. I think their enthusiasm and passion for fashion is not only admirable but encouraging for the local fashion scene. The fashion scene in Hong Kong is always changing so its wonderful to have people with such creativity and ideas around.