Hong Kong independent menswear designer Karmuel Young, who has a brand of the same name, often draws inspiration from the arts and sources special materials to make clothes. His design philosophy is to maximise each theme, value quality over quantity and focus on every single item.
Young, who has enjoyed drawing since childhood, often drew characters sporting different styles when he was young. He started reading Japanese fashion magazines in secondary school. “Every weekend I read Men's Non-no and looked at every page and every word carefully. I wanted to wear my favourite style and look more unique. When wide-leg pants were popular, I wore narrow-leg pants. I wanted to look different, without breaking the school rules.”He majored in fashion and textiles in college. "I felt that I was not a pure artist, so chose to study design. After getting in touch with European fashion, I had a broader vision and embarked on the path of becoming a fashion designer.”
Focus on one theme
After graduation, the designer went to Europe to work for Damir Doma and Ute Ploier, and learnt how to develop a concept. “I enrich a theme with many different elements, take things to the extreme and ensure nothing is superfluous.”He points out that European designers pay more attention to concepts, and have different people to work on different aspects of the business, while Hong Kong designers tend to be responsible for marketing, production, procurement, design and so on, so it’s two completely different models. He has always focused on menswear design, not only because he wants to make clothes that he can wear, but also because he was keen to specialise. “Even if it takes ten years, there is still a lot to learn. I want to keep exploring the world of menswear."
Art has a great influence on Young, with different exhibitions and visuals serving as inspiration. He admires contemporary art and furniture design from the 1920s to the 1940s and likes modern art, too. He can easily spend a day or two at the M+ Museum in Hong Kong, The Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Tate Gallery in London. “It is a digital world now. You can find many resources on the Internet, but artificial intelligence may only recommend viewing what you like. So I like reading books because I can discover something new.” He often read books in comic stores and kiosks when he was young, and now likes collecting books. “I like the texture and visuals of books. Compared to text, I’m more sensitive to visuals. I often buy and read visual books to enrich my database.”
Young’s collection is not launched by season but by project, because he wants to create designs that are timeless. “I’ve been doing men's clothing for more than a decade and found that men prefer specific cutting and classic styles. They go to Ralph Lauren to buy a polo shirt, then to Levi's to buy a pair of jeans. If they like one T-shirt, they might buy it in different colours. So I think it’s important to create a good cut. I started making clothing in Project 3. I had only two cuttings at that time, then gradually developed more. Instead of having a large number of pieces in one collection, I prefer putting a lot of effort into making one piece and allowing people to appreciate it.”
He believes that fabric is a key element, so every time he creates a new collection, the designer spends onethird of his time sourcing fabrics. "I am a curious person. I like to ask around, look around. You have to do hard work to find the best things, to seize opportunities. I don’t think you can’t find what you need. It all depends on how hard you work and how hungry you are.”
When creating Project 3, he discovered a Danish furniture fabric shop near Tai Ping Shan Street in Sheung Wan, and found his favourite wool fabric. About five years ago, he bought elastic bands with excellent elasticity, transparency and thickness from Tokyu Hands in Japan. Unfortunately, they were only A4 size. He spent days researching on the Internet and finally discovered a Japanese company that made industrial rubber bands. Then he succeeded in making an interesting elastic top. He combines textured fabrics and smooth fabrics to create a wrinkle effect and used metal yarns to express the relationship between humans and machines.
Stay true to his style
"Many people think that my work is neat. But I also like random things. Using random fabrics to match the neat design can enrich the whole collection." He describes the brand's core concept as "more than a men's essential wardrobe", balancing modern style and wearability. In addition to clothing, he makes accessories for leather shoes. He explains this is because the cost of accessories are less than fashion, and it’s less competitive. "I like leather shoes very much, and buy a few pairs of black leather shoes every year. I started with myself, then thought of renewing, reforming and restyling shoes with buckles and laces."
He believes that his original intention has remained unchanged over these years, and he expects the brand to stay consistent. "I’m sure that I’ve put in my best efforts every time. As I just said, it is necessary to maximise one concept, find the essence, and express it through different media to tell others what the brand is. Whether it is the design or visuals on social media, I always adhere to my style.” The designer is planning to collaborate with other creatives , and hopes to promote his works and ideas to different people and places in the future.