An exploration of identity – KA WA KEY
HOMEHIGHLIGHT ▸ An exploration of identity – KA WA KEY

KA WA KEY, the brainchild of creative duo Key Chow and Jarno Leppanen, is making strides on international runways with its poetic exploration of masculinity and identity.


Hailing from Hong Kong and Helsinki respectively, Key and Jarno met in London and teamed up to create KA WA KEY, a menswear label that explores soft masculinity and identity while traversing the boundaries between east and west. The fabrics used by KA WA KEY are all developed in-house at the studio in London.


KA WA KEY recently completed runway presentations for its Spring/Summer 2018 collection at Fashionally Collection #10 during CENTRESTAGE Hong Kong, Asia Fashion Collection (AFC) during Amazon Fashion Week Tokyo (#Amazonfwt), as well as Labelhood, an independent showcase platform under Shanghai Fashion Week for young and pioneering designers.


Through exploring the relationship between masculinity and Asian male identity in a dreamy and whimsical way, its Spring/Summer 2018 collection, Fried Rice in the Closet, narrates a story from a young man’s closet exploration of his sexuality and navigation through camouflaging himself in sportswear in a society that is dominated by masculine heterosexuality. In spite of the romanticism, however, the collection is also inspired by old workwear with details taken from sportswear. True to the spirit of KA WA KEY, this collection is again a showcase of the duo’s textile craft. Cotton is rendered semi-transparent with a pastel palette that looks like cracked paint. There is an allusion to the Japanese Wabi-sabi aesthetic that places beauty on simplicity, asymmetry and imperfection.

Key was particularly excited by the recent opportunity to introduce his brand and collection at Labelhood in Shanghai. Supported by GQ China, KA WA KEY staged two solo shows for industry people and the public. Inspired by the Royal Ballet’s production of Metamorphosis, the show resembled a theatrical performance where even the change of outfits took place on the stage.


“It was performance art mixed with a runway show on a square stage with the audience on three sides. Since the models were not professional dancers, we had to rehearse and plan thoroughly but this lent the show an unpretentious quality,” he said.


For AFC, KA WA KEY also did a buyer presentation with industry people like WWD Japan, while renowned stylists in attendance offered useful feedback to the young designers.


“We created a special window display for our stockist in Tokyo during the show, and also visited some select shops in Harajuku just to talk and exchange ideas. AFC was a great opportunity to strengthen our buyer relationships in Japan, and we additionally got to learn how other Asian designers are doing,” Key remarked. FASHIONALLY is glad to see that KA WA KEY is being more and more mature in their collection.


Currently, KA WA KEY is carried by stockists in Mainland China, South Korea, Japan and the UK. While the designers are looking to increase the network of stockists, they also want to continue adding new artistic elements to the brand just like they have done at Labelhood. Next stop for KA WA KEY will be New York Fashion Week in February for another edition of AFC. Stay tuned to FASHIONALLY and join us to keep an eye on KA WA KEY!


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