Heritage re-imagined
HOMEHIGHLIGHT ▸ Heritage re-imagined
Hong Kong designers are starting to look for inspiration closer to home rather than abroad
Hong Kong’s inspiration for fashion has taken a shift. For the longest time, many of the city’s emerging designers admired and were influenced by designs that came from the holy trinity of fashion capitals – London, Paris and Milan. But now, the directions of the winds have changed. In conjunction with China’s rising dominance on the world stage, local designers have begun to look inward and into their own heritage as a source of inspiration to create a more diverse and inclusive, global fashion industry. A few homegrown heroes that are spearheading the movement are Kay Li, Yat Pit, Cynthia & Xiao and Loom Loop.
It goes without saying that marriage can be a daunting experience filled with contradicting feelings of joy and fear. Now, picture if you met your betrothed for the very first time on the night of your wedding. It’s a scary thought, but this was the situation for many Chinese women during the times of imperial China and it was imagining what these women for experiencing that inspired designer Kay Li to design her latest, environmentally-friendly AW17 collection titled, ‘The Great Expectation’, which she presented at the Copenhagen Fashion Week. Li combined the feelings of sadness, fear, anger and joy of the uncertain wife to be, to create a mascu-feminine collection with laser cut dresses mimicking patterns of traditional Chinese window panels onto asymmetrical dresses, long tunics and trousers. Vibrant red and blue hues are used in the collection to symbolise celebration, whereas high collars and waist fastenings represent reminders of the shackles of oppression that were, and still face women today. The overall, looks, however, are strong and represent the forward-thinking, independent woman that remembers the past as means to fight for a better future.

Kay Li

For a less stark and light-hearted collection comes Cynthia and Xiao’s showing of comfortable knitwear and bold graphic streetwear featuring elements of ethnic Chinese minority designs. The layered, variegated fringe tunics and skirts accessorised with woven handbags have folk Chinese aesthetics written all over it. In addition, jumpers with rabbit and tiger illustrations representing the Chinese zodiac also pay homage to tradition.  The collection was a hit at the recent New York Fashion Week.

Another young design duo incorporating Chinese aesthetics into fashion are On-ying Lai and Jason Mui. The motto for their brand YAT PIT(meaning ‘one stroke’ in Chinese) is to ‘revive lost Chinese culture’ with clothes that speak to today’s irreverent youth. YAT PIT’s debut collection refers to a throwback, Bruce Lee-esque aesthetic highlighted by wide denim pants, red corduroy jackets and oversized tunics with traditional Chinese fastening. It’s Chinese hipster streetwear for the cool and fashion informed. And sticking to their local roots, YAT PIT produces their clothes from the heart of our very own fashion district – Sham Shui Po.

Probably the most literal and 360 approach toward traditional Chinese fashion comes from Loom Loop, the brainchild of designers Polly Ho and Melancholiandy. Together the duo designed a sustainable brand that uses traditional, Canton dyed silk as the foundation for all of their garments. The intention was to bring a forgotten traditional fabric back into the limelight using modern designs. For their AW17 collection titled ‘The Separated Lovers’, Loom Loop has created a bold and colourful collection based on Chinese folktale The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd. Purples, blues and greens create magpie and cow patterns (referencing the fable) on loose-fitting long coats and dresses. Chinese clothing has always been strongest when blending the ornate with comfort, a philosophy Loom Loop clearly adheres too. The most striking piece is the cascading, laser-cut dress with flowing, linked medallions. This dress serves movement, lightness and elegance. To accessorise, there is a handbag inspired and shaped like the iconic Hong Kong chocolate milk carton.

Kay Li, Cynthia & Xiao, Yat Pit as well as Loom Loop are four completely different brands that have been able to harness Chinese traditional design to create something completely different and relevant to today’s fashion industry that craves more than just Western perspective. So, in the pursuit of diversity and inclusion, we applaud them.
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