#DesignerDaily | Kinyan Lam
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Fashion Designer : Kinyan Lam

Q1: Besides fashion design, do you have any other activities you enjoy? What do you do during your me-time?

Kinyan Lam: My home is surrounded by plants, indicating that I am clearly someone who loves plants. Therefore, during my free time, I spend my time on household chores and gardening. Especially when I am busy, my home can become quite messy. When it reaches a certain point, I will start cleaning, as it is one of my ways to relieve stress.

Q2: When did you develop a love for fashion?

Kinyan Lam: I developed a passion for fashion from a young age. I was particularly fond of drawing and had an interest in beautiful things. It wasn't until certain promotional events and career talks during my secondary school years that I became aware of the existence of fashion as a course of study. After learning more about it, I discovered that elements such as fabric dyeing, design, and pattern drawing were all aspects I enjoyed. I used to think that simple items like T-shirts and jeans were straightforward, but I realised that creating a piece of clothing involves various disciplines. This realisation sparked my desire to delve deeper into the world of fashion.

Q3: Why did you choose to move into a village house? Which corner of your home do you like the most?

Kinyan Lam: The initial studio was established in the city centre, but I found myself preferring quieter environments. Whether it's for work or living, the surroundings have an impact on the quality of my work. Therefore, when choosing a creative space in the future, my comfort becomes the top priority. I also hope that the interior decoration and aesthetics are interconnected with my creations. Just like my current home, when I was looking at properties, I fell in love with the rooftop of this building. From the rooftop, there is a mountain view, and the forest-like environment captivated me. Inside the house, my favorite spot is the experimental lab for dyeing trials.

Q4: After moving to the suburbs, do you feel uncomfortable when returning to the city centre?

Kinyan Lam: I didn't realise it before, but after spending some time in the village, I felt a bit uncomfortable when I returned to the busier and noisier city centre. It's like during the Lunar New Year festivities, when there are many people, and the atmosphere is bustling with people shopping for New Year goods. I really wanted to go home, to lie down on the sofa. My MBTI type is "I" for Introversion.

Q5: Have you encountered any bottlenecks in the design process?

Kinyan Lam: In the past, I encountered bottlenecks more frequently, especially when I was studying fashion design. There were many times when I felt tired and even aesthetically fatigued with my designs, particularly when my own aesthetics and creations hadn't fully developed to a point where I had confidence in them. However, as I continued to work and gradually developed my own unique aesthetic, I started to no longer doubt my designs. Perhaps this is a necessary process where, by focusing on doing something for a prolonged period, confidence in that field is built.

Q6: Whether at home or in the studio, both are filled with plants. What do you think it attracts you to dyeing and creating with plants?

Kinyan Lam:  Actually, I'm not quite sure, but it may be related to my own characteristics. I believe that everyone has something that brings them a sense of tranquillity, and for me, it happens to be plants.

Q7: Can you share with us your methods for cultivating your sense of aesthetics?

Kinyan Lam:  I believe that a sense of aesthetics is inherent, but it is also important to expose oneself to and read extensively about various art forms. By doing so, one can absorb and interpret their own unique aesthetics, allowing for a full exploration of the stories behind their creations.

Q8: Do you ever feel overwhelmed and consider giving up one aspect to focus on the other when it comes to dyeing fabrics and design, which are typically separate roles?

Kinyan Lam:  There are indeed times when I feel overwhelmed. Designing requires a lot of mental effort, and dyeing fabrics is also time-consuming. However, my designs start with the fabric itself. When I begin the design process, I don't do much research or refer to different works. Instead, I touch the fabric and think about what kind of clothing I can design with it. Therefore, the fabric is the origin of all my designs. I either search for fabrics I like in Guizhou or develop my own beloved fabric colours, and then proceed to sketch my designs based on that.

Q9: Why did you choose plant dyeing in the first place? What is your greatest feeling when using natural dyes on fabrics?

Kinyan Lam:  During my studies at DI, I had a memorable experience during a textile workshop where we made 12 pieces of fabric. It was during this process that I discovered my interest in fabric dyeing. Additionally, in a natural dye workshop, I encountered the fascination of plant dyeing. I realised that plants can be used to create a variety of colours, and their diversity and richness greatly surprised me. Through further exploration, I discovered that natural dyeing has been a long-standing craft in different countries, but it has been overshadowed by modern chemical dyes. While the fashion industry has been rapidly developing over the years, natural dyeing carries significant cultural value. Especially during my visits to Guizhou, I came across local cultural stories that deserve our attention. Therefore, I hope to slow down the process of fabric dyeing and appreciate the cultural significance within it.

Q10: What are the differences between chemical dyeing and natural dyeing? Do you think natural dyeing needs to be further promoted in the context of sustainable development?

Kinyan Lam:  Chemical dyeing is definitely faster, while natural dyeing involves a more complex process. However, because plant dyeing requires natural fibre fabrics to achieve the desired results, it is more environmentally friendly compared to chemical dyeing. Therefore, I believe that natural dye is a craft that deserves to be more widely known. However, I think sustainable development is the basic responsibility of fashion designers. So, my natural dyeing works are not intended to be a mere marketing strategy. Instead, I focus on exploring the cultural values and heritage behind natural dyeing. For example, the craftsmanship of indigo dyeing, the use of different materials and weaving techniques in Guizhou to create handmade fabrics, and other related topics are worthy of in-depth exploration.

Q11: You visited Guizhou in search of fabrics that are rich in craftsmanship and brought them back to Hong Kong for design. What do you think is the biggest difference between the two places? What are the difficulties in engaging in fashion in Hong Kong?

Kinyan Lam:  The reason I visited Guizhou initially was because while doing research on fabrics in the Guangzhou market, I came across a shiny black fabric that resembled leather. However, the vendor told me it was a handmade fabric using natural materials, which sparked my interest in exploring the local handicraft culture in Guizhou. I heard many stories of cultural heritage during my visit, and they were incredibly meaningful. On the other hand, Hong Kong is a fast-paced city where it is convenient and affordable to purchase clothing. Establishing a brand and creating designs in Hong Kong is a different experience. I don't know how far and how long I can go with these endeavours, and I'm uncertain if I can survive in the future. However, this is something I am passionate about, and I will continue to support it.

Q12: What do you think Hong Kong can further improve in terms of fashion craftsmanship?

Kinyan Lam:  Actually, Hong Kong has never lacked ancestral craftsmanship, whether it's dyeing or tailoring. However, we lack opportunities, and for some reason, it has slowly become a sunset industry. It may be due to the influence of the overall environment, where the focus has been on financial development, neglecting this aspect. On the contrary, in some less developed areas where resources are scarce, people tend to cherish every item more. For example, in ancient times, people would offer fabric as a gift. However, nowadays, not many young people are willing to enter this industry. But I believe there is still a cultural heritage that needs to be passed down. When I attended a lecture by International Fashion Designer, Ma Ke at M+, he said, "When a group of people is moving fast, there might be something left behind along the way. But I don't mind being the last one, picking up their remnants. When they realise in the not-too-distant future that they have left behind something important, I already have it firmly in my hands." His words are exactly my thought.

Q13: Have you ever thought about using your role as a teacher to expose students to more traditional practices in plant dyeing? Or to explore the possibility of aligning natural dyeing with modern demands?

Kinyan Lam:  That is exactly what I am doing now. I promote the value, craftsmanship, and stories behind natural dyeing through various platforms and channels. I believe that education is essential, so in each season's collection, I specifically mention the plants used for dyeing, the stories behind the clothes, and the dyeing techniques. I believe that when someone purchases a piece of clothing, they would want to know its story.

Q14: In addition to being beneficial for sustainable development, what do you think attracts consumers to plant dyeing?

Kinyan Lam:  In the past, we always used plant dyeing methods to dye fabrics, and the colours of the clothes would change over time, just like denim jeans. They would transit from deep navy blue to a lighter washed-out blue. Consumers actually appreciate this kind of change. Many people told me that the colours of the clothes I design cannot be preserved permanently. But I believe that nothing lasts forever. Why can't we accept and embrace this kind of change?

Text : KW

Video & Photo : Samwill Yau

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