Young HK fashion designers on succeeding in the industry, and why fashion is important

By junior reporters Jessica Chan and Natasha Ho Jo-wei

Hong Kong’s annual fashion trade show, Centrestage, always promises to deliver the latest from Asia’s biggest brands and designers; but this year, it took a chance on some promising up-and-comers

By junior reporters Jessica Chan and Natasha Ho Jo-wei |

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Candidates were tasked with designing a collection of clothing for British car marque Mini.

Hong Kong’s annual fashion trade show, Centrestage, always promises to deliver the latest from Asia’s biggest brands and designers; but this year, it took a chance on some promising up-and-comers.

The show’s organisers, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, teamed up with the Hong Kong Design Centre, the organisation behind the Young Designer Awards, to give new graduates the chance to promote their work and meet big names from the fashion industry. Candidates were tasked with designing a collection of clothing for British car brand Mini, inspired by its latest model.

We chatted to two of this year’s young designers, Carol Tong and Katrina Chan.

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“I love working as a team, combing ideas, coming up with a theme or concept and making something surprising,” said Katrina, who is currently in her final year of study at Parsons School of Design in New York in the US.

“Fashion should make people feel good; it should give them confidence,” added Carol, who is also in her final year at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Both Carol and Katrina feel that fashion design in Hong Kong doesn't get the recognition it deserves.

Katrina’s collection for Centrestage, titled Remembrance of Grandpa, is a tribute to her late grandfather. “When I saw him in hospital, I knew that I wanted to make a collection to remember him, because I really want to create something that was meaningful and personal to me, rather than a collection that was just really pretty. Storytelling is the most important thing in art. So that’s what I’m doing.”

It’s the storytelling aspect of design that Katrina wants Hong Kong to embrace.

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“Fashion is a way to express your feelings, but I feel that in Hong Kong the story behind your concept isn’t important,” she admitted.

Carol’s collection, meanwhile, titled Suffering From Pleasure, explores the interrelationship between pleasure and pain. “We can’t experience one without the other,” she explained.

The best advice she has received, she said, is to strike a balance between making her work both personal and marketable – after all, it doesn’t matter how much her designs mean to her if she can’t sell them.

Carol Tong believes fashion should make you look and feel good.
Photo: Hong Kong Trade and Development Council

While Carol has set out a five-year career plan spanning all the way from working as an assistant fashion designer to having her own label, Katrina believes it’s important to keep an open mind about your interests, as it’s normal for them to change with time. As well as fashion, she also loves acting, as both art forms are perfect for storytelling.

Both girls feel the fashion industry in Hong Kong still lacks recognition, and would benefit from a boost from the government, especially when it comes to promotion for fashion events and funding for students. “My friends didn’t know about this fashion show until I entered,” said Katrina. “I hope that will change.”

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge