Fashion in Hong Kong and China

Hong Kong street-inspired fashion brand Injury has upmarket evolution

Founder Eugene Leung advises young designers to focus on understanding people’s lifestyles and making an impact rather than superficial, crazy clothes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2016, 12:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 September, 2016, 5:25pm

It’s every fashion designer’s dream to host a catwalk show in Paris. That moment finally happened for Hong Kong-based brand Injury when it made its debut during Paris Fashion Week in March 2016.

“Having a show in Paris changed everything. It’s not about sales. It’s purely a PR exercise to show the world what you can do. It makes people have more confidence in your collections, which is so important,” says founder and designer, Eugene Leung.

Injury isn’t exactly a new kid on the fashion block (in this region anyway). Founded in Sydney, Australia in 2004 by Leung, the label has been a regular fixture at Sydney and Melbourne fashion weeks, and has even shown in New York. It’s been worn by celebrities including Hong Kong’s Sammi Cheng Sau-man and Eason Chan Yik-shun, and is available at more than 20 stockists around the world, including high-end retailers such as Harvey Nichols Hong Kong. The Paris show, however, marked a fresh chapter for the brand, as it carves a new identity for itself on a global stage.

Learning curve for three Hong Kong fashion labels in Paris catwalk debut

“We are always evolving. I don’t just want to have a fashion brand, I want Injury to be multidisciplinary. I want to make people think about subcultures, films, music. I want to create clothes they need, that will stay with them forever,” says Leung.

Injury was born when a friend approached Leung to create a line of clothing for his new fashion distribution company. Leung originally studied architecture at the University of New South Wales, but fashion and graphics were his biggest creative inspirations. He combined these passions for Injury and created a collection of 10 unisex T-shirts featuring graphic prints and edgy details such as swing tags. They flew off the shelves and he started adding more designs to the collection.

“I always wanted to start a brand, even when I studied architecture. A ‘designer’ label T-shirt brand made sense, as many other Australian brands such as Ksubi were already exploring this category. It was an easy way to get into fashion,” he says.

Success came quickly. As sales increased, Leung decided to launch a complete men’s collection, which was immediately picked up by a Japanese distributor. At this point he started building a new brand identity incorporating more trends and themes such as music and street art. In 2008, he added tailoring to the mix.

“What I learnt from architecture is that when you want to do something you just do the research. Architecture teaches you how to make things in the easiest way, even though it may not be the proper way. I would buy samples, dissect clothing and take it to the pattern maker to help bring the vision to life. For me building a brand is more than just clothes – it’s about the image, the branding, the aesthetic,” he says.

In 2009 Injury turned a new page. Leung moved back to Hong Kong and met Dan Tse, who would become his partner in life and work. With Tse at the helm, they decided to launch a separate women’s collection in 2010.

“The brand already had such a strong branding and attitude so we applied this to women’s wear by working on the fit and silhouette as opposed to graphics. The Injury woman is fun, strong, powerful and independent. I wanted to move away from anything too sexy,” she says.

In the beginning, both the men’s and women’s lines were designed around stories and themes, from horror films to deities. Today, however, Tse and Leung are creating garments with a more modern and clean aesthetic, and free from fussy details (the graphic prints that were once their signature are long gone).

“We have really moved away from creating items that purely make a visual impact. Our current autumn/winter 2016 collection is called 6 Seconds, and is based on the average attention span of humans. I wanted to design things quickly, so the looks needed to be as straightforward as possible so the customer could understand the concept quickly. It was more about a goal versus a theme,” says Leung.

The resulting collection is energetic and young with a luxurious touch.

In lieu of a theme or concept, each style is designed to be easily mixed and matched and includes classic silhouettes for both men and women – leather jackets, bombers, utility trousers and track pants. The difference is evident in the Japanese and Italian fabrics they use, ranging from faux fur to a hi-tech memory textile that can be manipulated easily to change its shape. A nonchalant look ties everything together.

“I like the idea of a hybrid kind of styling. If you are wearing trousers, why do you need to match them with a tailored jacket when denim looks cooler? Likewise why not pair a suit jacket with tracksuit trousers. Our look is somewhere between luxury, casual and streetwear,” says Leung.

Also new to Injury this season are accessories including shoes and jewellery, which is handmade in London, and which garnered plenty of attention among buyers and the media with its sculptural yet futuristic shapes. Tse says there are plans to expand these collections further for their spring/summer 2017 collection, which will debut in September at Paris Fashion Week.

Now that the brand is going global, there are many more opportunities for the duo to explore. Leung says that they are looking into moving manufacturing to London to ensure better quality, while considering new points of sales from free-standing to online stores. More than that, he is questioning the current fashion system of showing multiple collections, much like other big brands such as Burberry and Gucci.

“Everyone is changing their business model and how they sell. The global retail market is not as strong as before. Things are more expensive with wholesale, and we want to make fashion more affordable. People don’t want to buy overpriced things any more. It’s about having value in what you buy.

“Another area I want to explore is sustainability, not just in what we produce but how we work and create. Right now there are so many brands that are producing so much. I would love to do one season or collection per year and make it the opposite of fast fashion. At the same time we need to ensure that this model is commercially viable,” he says.

Although Leung and Tse are hoping to raise their profile in the international fashion arena, they are still very much part of the Hong Kong design scene. Although they were not considered a “Hong Kong brand” initially, this has changed thanks to growing support from local media as well as organisations such as the Fashion Farm Foundation. Together with their peers in the local community they hope to spread a message of more meaningful fashion.

“My advice to young designers is that they shouldn’t focus on designing and making crazy clothes. It’s more important to know the world, how people live and their lifestyle. Right now fashion is producing more than people need. Make sure what you create is going to have an impact,” says Leung.