FIP Designers: Learning from Tokyo and Beijing

Any young fashion designer knows how essential exposure can be to their budding brands and fashion careers. They often fight for the opportunity to put their new collections under the spotlight on the international stage. At the same time, the exposure to foreign cultures is equally important for achieving substantial growth in the quality of their design. It is as much about gaining new knowledge as taking a fresh look at one’s own work. Our designers in the Fashion Incubation Programme (FIP) get the best of both. In October and November, FIP designers Yeung Chin and Angus Tsui joined the third Design Exchange (DX) Tour to Tokyo while Mountain Yam and Derek Chan presented their latest collections at the China Fashion Week in Beijing.

The 4-day DX Tour to Tokyo was the third edition of the exchange tour organised by the Hong Kong Design Centre following the success of two excursions to Bangkok and Melbourne earlier this year. 10 emerging designers from a range of disciplines including Angus and Yeung Chin visited renowned design studios in town, such as design giant Yohji Yamamoto’s Aoyama main store, GK Design Group, Daikanyama T-SITE, etc. They also met with revered designers and showcased their work to their Japanese counterparts at “Think Global, Think Hong Kong”, a promotion campaign hosted by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. Both of them gained a lot from the visit to Teamlab, whose mesmerising multimedia installations captured millennials’ hearts. “Their studio is full of freedom but also very stylish. It facilitates different teams to interact with and inspire each other,” said Angus.  

Japan has always been a source of inspiration to many designers. Yeung Chin discovered another side of their culture, “I learnt how they strike a balance for different markets and think holistically from other angles.” It also changed his view on his design practice, “Sometimes design is not only about imagination, but a balance of creativity, the users’ perceptions and the proximity to everyday life.” Angus was impressed by the extreme user-friendliness of their design, “Japanese design has always been about attention to details and the pursuit for perfection. They incorporate a great deal of user-centred elements, using design to make everyday life easier and better.” Inspired by the spirit of always pushing the boundary, he is eager to adopt a more cross-disciplinary approach for his brand.

Another two FIP designers, Derek and Mountain, put on a good show at the China Fashion Week in Beijing. They were supported by local nonprofit Design Renaissance Foundation (DRF) , whose mission is to introduce young Hong Kong fashion brands to the global market. Derek stole the show with his SS19 collection themed “Narcissus.” It reinterprets the self-involved quality shaped by social media by combining shirts and outerwear into novel items like shirt jacket and shirt blazer. He was surprised by the Chinese fashion scene’s receptiveness to his brand signature of soft masculinity, “The buyers are very willing to try new things and adopt a global perspective.” Mountain was also delighted by the enthusiastic response from Chinese media and buyers to his new collection “Free Like a Bird”.  “The Chinese fashion market still holds high expectations for Hong Kong’s fashion scene.”

Having gained some experience in the Chinese market, Mountain shared some insights for gaining a foothold, “Online retail and promotional strategies making use of multiple channels are very important. We are good at merging the best of different cultures, but we still need to be more open-minded and discard the boundaries we set for ourselves.” After gaining exposure in such a different market, Derek also came to value the advantage of Hong Kong designers, “In Hong Kong, we have a high accessibility to information which shape our broad international view. At the same time, we are well connected to the material suppliers in China.” This is a unique edge which is especially important to young designers facing worldwide competition.