#Feature | What the VIP Judges Say
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Han Chong, Founder of Self-Portrait, and fashion journalist/digital content creator Yu Masui served as VIP Judges at the recently concluded Hong Kong Young Fashion Designers’ Contest 2023 (YDC). Here they share their views on fashion today, and give advice to young designers on how they can prepare for the future in this ever-changing industry.

As in previous years, YDC invited renowned figures from the fashion industry to serve as VIP Judges. Besides picking winners at the contest, Chong and Masui also shared their valuable experience with the finalists, and shed light on how they stay inspired and overcome challenges. In the highly competitive fashion industry, to be successful, lots of factors are at play – talent, vision, determination – all of which you need to have a fighting chance.

Chong believes that to succeed in today's fashion industry, designers need not only creativity and technical skills, but also unwavering determination and passion. “The industry is constantly evolving, and so competitive that you must be determined and passionate. At the same time, you need a unique vision, a story to tell and a message you want to convey, before you can find your audience and stand out. This is crucial for all aspiring designers looking to establish their own brands.”

Chong’s fashion journey has not been without its challenges. He overcame many difficulties while establishing Self-Portrait, which is now one of the most beloved brands in fashion today. To put it simply, he said: “A positive mindset and attitude determine everything.”

He said that true inspiration and innovation is a constant struggle in the fashion world.“  To survive in the industry, you need to stay relevant.”  Chong encourages young designers to remain curious about everything around them, to get inspired by everyday life, and constantly challenge themselves to keep pushing boundaries.

Active at fashion events and often seen snapping street style photos during fashion weeks, Masui has developed a distinctive style after many years in the industry, one that emphasises experimentation, self-expression, and staying true to one self. He said: “The truth is I never look at what’s currently trendy to decide what to wear. I just wear things that I find interesting and like.”  The key to young designers developing a unique style, he said, is to “express yourself through style in a fearless way.”

When asked about the changes to the fashion world in recent years by social media, Masui sees them as a challenge as well.“  The emergence of TikTok encourages people to do similar things, reducing creativity and innovation to 'copy and paste’.”  However, Masui believes that Hong Kong designers hold a unique position in the global fashion industry.

“Hong Kong is a city that blends Eastern and Western cultures, providing young designers with the ability to integrate the two while offering a unique perspective.”  He added: “In Japan, the fashion industry is challenged by the decline of garment factories, but the manufacturing capabilities in Hong Kong’s neighbouring regions still provide great support for local designers. I think this is a major advantage for Hong Kong designers.”

During YDC’s judging process, Masui paid a lot of attention to diversity and sustainability, which by now have become a fundamental part of fashion today. Additionally, he values originality, attention to detail, and the ability to resonate with the contemporary fashion world. “  ‘Good design’ not only needs to embody exquisite craftsmanship and creativity, but also evoke emotions and create resonance. It should establish a community that makes people feel a sense of belonging, he concluded.

Executive Producer: Heidi Lam
Photography: Jackal Tsoi, Mathew Tang

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