Designer Sonic Lam has created a utilitarian-inspired collection in collaboration with street artists Start From Zero
First Runner-up of YDC 2017 Sonic Lam felt he couldn’t find his place in fashion. He is drawn to clothing with stories, vintage fashion and its history. The Hong Kong fashion landscape, which is dominated by high-end designer labels, does not feel like his natural habitat. The designer admits he would have been totally lost had he not met the team of creatives behind Start from Zero.
Founded by street artists Katol and Dom in 2000, Start from Zero began by making stencil art and sticker art on the streets of Hong Kong and also had a work wear apparel line. After a hiatus in 2013, the team took up woodwork and has since set up a sizeable studio in Ngau Tau Kok. The name “Start from Zero” refers to their modus operandi, which is simply to start doing anything they put their mind to, lack of resources notwithstanding. It speaks volumes about their work ethic and can-do attitude.
Woodwork sounds like an unusual addition to a street artist’s body of work, but the reason was simple enough. “We didn’t have the money to buy furniture so we made our own. Then we added graphics to it and that’s how it started. We did an exhibition with silk screening on wood but nobody would buy that kind of art. We turned it into a table so at least it had a practical use!,” says Katol.
Now the workshop makes woodwork sets and furniture for events, stores and restaurants, successfully combining the different facets of design into a creative entity that is constantly evolving.
Katol met Lam at a crafts market organised by Milk magazine and was impressed with his talent. They came up with the idea of making uniforms together. “We have a comfortable working relationship. We’re very down-to-earth and want to create something that stems from a single concept without the influence of trends or commercial considerations,” says Lam.
It’s easy to see how Sonic is drawn to the Start from Zero team. “What one person can do is very limited. I enjoy working with a team, and on something that has an interesting story. Collaborating with Start from Zero gives me this exact opportunity,” he explains.
The first Start from Zero x Sonic Lam collection features items inspired by the “happy workers” at its woodwork studio. True to Sonic’s love of vintage, there is a re-rendering of the classic French worker’s jacket with oversized pockets for tools; pants with knee patches for protection against wear and tear; a tool vest for carrying even more tools; and a newsboy cap created in collaboration with local hat maker Mosorsisi.
Made from durable denim and canvas, the collection also incorporates Katol’s graphics, adding a stylish, streetwear element. Apart from the text graphics that originate from sticker art, there is a rat motif representing the team’s experience from the streets. “Street artists are treated like rats because people think we are annoying and drive us away,” says Katol.
In June, Start from Zero has an exhibition at the House of Vans skatepark in Kwun Tong. “Creatives are like athletes. We need to train and don’t stop creating. We don’t talk about the lack of support or resources because we believe in fighting for ourselves. Start from Zero is all about making things happen,” says Katol.
Doers, dreamers and happy workers all in one. The kind of artists that we can all get behind.
The first collection of Start from Zero x Sonic Lam will be available at the FASHIONALLY pop-up at PMQ from 27 April to 20 May.