The quest of a Hong Kong
fashion designer in Paris
HOMEHIGHLIGHT ▸ Kristy Tang: The quest of a Hong Kong fashion designer in Paris

Working as a fashion designer in Paris hasn’t been without its challenges for Kristy Tang. But her hard work over the past decade is beginning to pay off…

A graduate of Caritas Bianchi College of Careers, designer Kristy Tang’s talents were recognised at the Hong Kong Young Fashion Designers’ Contest (YDC) back in 2008.  An admirer of haute couture, she left for Paris to study at the L’école de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, even though she spoke little French at the time.

Kristy Tang (Right)

Despite the language barrier, Tang was one of ten students to take part in a final graduation expo that would increase her chances of getting an internship at one of the big couture houses. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen due to her lack of connections. However, she was later offered an internship at the house of Emanuel Ungaro and continued to work there after graduation as an assistant designer, working with several creative directors. Her stint there ended when Ungaro closed its design department in 2011.

The chance to work with ex-Balenciaga designer Eva Zingoni, coupled with her own first-hand experience, got Tang reflecting on the idea of fashion. “Eva Zingoni works with surplus fabrics from top fashion houses. I once saw a nice piece of baby crocodile skin, all perfect except for a hole right in the middle because someone cut a fabric swatch from it, making the whole piece useless if Eva didn’t salvage it,” she recalls.

“I began to ponder if I wanted to continue being just another designer in the industry, or work with a conscience to create something that is sustainable, with unique concepts,” she says.

She chose the latter, less easy path. The designer has had to work several jobs to make a living and spend half of her earnings on creating a collection to enter fashion competitions – and open up more opportunities.

Between working full-time and limited funds, it took Tang three years to complete eight outfits and eight sets of leather accessories developed and prototyped at home, using all natural materials and minimising waste. While working for accessories designer Camille Fournet, she was introduced to a specialist leather workshop – but Tang needed to persuade the craftsmen to create the gloves she envisaged.

“I travelled all the way to this small town called Millau, met the craftsmen and communicated with a mix of French and English. Throughout the meeting, they just looked at me without giving me any feedback. I felt deflated and returned to Paris. But a few days later, I got a call from the workshop saying they could help me,” she recalls.

It was Tang’s sincerity and respect for craftsmanship – and the fact that she’d traveled to visit – that convinced them. Even though the designer’s collection didn’t win the global competition she entered, it boosted her portfolio. Her idea for sustainable design, and an accessory collection that crosses the threshold between accessories and clothing, caught the attention of Hermès.

After her first contact with the house two years ago, she was recently given the opportunity to collaborate with Hermès’ sustainable line, Petit H.

Kristy Tang

During her time in Paris, apart from being a freelance designer, Tang also works at international development for fashion, luxury and design field, Moda Domani Institute as an instructor, and department store Le Printemps as a salesperson, gaining a wealth of experience while trying to make ends meet.

Working as a designer and a salesperson enabled me to see fashion from different points of view, and how even top fashion houses are changing their DNA or business strategies to cope with the changing times.” Tang isn’t happy with the influence social media is having on fashion, however. “It makes my heart ache to see the wastefulness of the current consumer culture, which is not about design any more but what influencers wear.”

Undeterred, she wants to continue with her sustainable approach. “I still want to maintain a humanistic approach, to experiment more while respecting people and the planet.”

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