SCAD fashion students on creating a collection, the importance of prioritising, and knowing your strengths and weaknesses

Two of Hong Kong’s most promising design graduates talk about their creative process, from the sketch pad to the catwalk

Joanne Ma |

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Cheryl Ma's “Rise” collection is influenced by the texture of wild fungi.

It all starts with a simple idea. Then comes the development. After that all the sketching, pattern making, draping, and production flows naturally.

The fashion students at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Hong Kong have to cover the full spectrum of fashion. They not only oversee the production, but are present at each stage of the project, from the design to the final photo shoot.

Last Thursday, two recent fashion graduates, Maria Nava and Cheryl Ma, sat down and talked to the press about their collections, which were to be exhibited at SCAD Hong Kong’s annual fashion showcase later that day. They also discussed what fashion means to them, the challenges of the industry, and the trends they’re looking forward to in 2019.

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The pair have very contrasting styles. Nava, the 26-year-old designer from Mexico City, draws her inspiration from German expressionism, adding elements of drama to her collection of 1920s-style wedding dresses. Meanwhile, 24-year-old local designer Ma drew her designs from nature, having spotted some wild mushrooms on one of her hikes.

Maria Nava’s “Green” collection is inspired by 1920s German cinema.
Photo: SCAD

“Mushrooms are very resilient; they can survive the harshest environments,” says Ma. “I really wanted to do [natural designs] because nature can be so relatable; I had no clue what the future would bring after I graduated so, like fungi, I needed to learn how to grow in the dark.”

For this project, Ma says planning ahead and using her time wisely have been crucial, as she had to complete six pieces in just eight months. The key was knowing where her strengths and weaknesses lay. Skilled with a needle, Ma knew that sewing her clothes wouldn’t take very long. So, she decided to devote more time to researching the shapes of fungus and developing the patterns.

In the fast-paced, competitive world of fashion, it can be difficult to get a foot on the ladder. But Nava says the joy she gets from her work makes it a battle worth fighting.“I’d rather be doing something that I love [that is not paid well] than something that earns me a lot of money. It’s going to be hard, but I’m gonna enjoy it,” she says. “If it’s for a job you love, having to work late at night isn’t going to seem so bad. You’d probably even do it voluntarily.” Nava’s taste of the fashion industry has also taught her to be both patient and persistent.

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“I just had to keep saying please, please, please, please, please,” she says of her struggle to find internships and collaboration opportunities.

“Sometimes, things just don’t work out; it comes down to how far you are willing to take your love of what you like to do,” she says.

Other times, however, perseverance pays off; Nava has worked for major fashion house Valentino and her designs have been displayed at shows in London and New York. As for this year’s hottest trends, Ma says that animal prints are here to stay. She also predicts that we’ll see denim being paired with lots of different fabrics. She is working at a denim company, which has inspired her to include more denim in her own designs.

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“Of course, designers prefer to create trends than predict them,” she says with a laugh. “Which means I want to see people wearing mushrooms in the future.”

Nava adds that fashion is about breaking the rules. “If you wear a paper bag with something on it and everyone goes crazy about it, it becomes a trend.”

So, ultimately, what does fashion mean to designers like Ma? It’s all about the way you wear your clothes, she says, and the spin you put on them more than it is about wearing whatever is most popular with other people.

“[That’s] inspiring,” she said.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge