FAULT Review: Hong Kong Fashion Week

Given its unique position in Asia as the ultimate crossroads of the Orient and the Occident, we had no idea what to expect from Hong Kong Fashion Week. The thing is, beneath its surface of mixed influences that can on first impression seem excessive and over-saturated, there is a current of modernity that runs through the heart of Hong Kong and just as (if not more) importantly, there is a tradition of incredibly high quality. It is at this intersection that the MA Graduates Fashion Show of the Institute of Textiles and Clothing is presented- one of the highlights of Hong Kong Fashion Week. The show was broken into twelve different segments, each showcasing the collection of a different graduate.

The first was Joyce Liu’s ‘Indian in Jungle’ collection, a riot of colour and print bound in sharp, expert tailoring. Liu played with prints with great fluidity, balancing lightness of material with angular tailoring and thick platform shoes that echoed the jolie-laid visuals of Prada or Dries van Noten.

Next was Liv Liu’s ‘Implicit Knot’, which used a monochrome palette to offset really interesting experiments into textile combinations and unusual cuts. Lighter chiffons hung in almost biomorphic shapes whilst a plastic textile was used as a bodice and breastplate- suitably modern armour.

Lesley Liu
Lesley Liu


Lesley Liu’s ‘Distant Island’ also highlighted the emphasis on textiles within the MA course, using a thick and tubular material in bold neon blues, constructed in a very mechanic, almost scientific way. The material had such a lightness that it seemed almost as if everyday chiffon or nylon had been given the Cubist (or in fact, Tubist) treatment of Fernand Léger, especially with the similarly vibrant colour palette. Léger spoke of the ‘plastic power’ of his work and nowhere is this concept more ‘real’ than in Hong Kong, where the buyer is king.


Vanessa Liu
Vanessa Liu

Vanessa Liu was up next with ‘Vacancy’, a quasi-bridal collection in white that showed the influence of the Western couture tradition and the relentless luxury and glamour of Valentino- whether that be applied to full evening gowns or to shift dress-and-trouser combinations that whilst modern and futuristically clean bore the vintage influence of Valentino’s work for Jackie O in the Sixties.

Amy Jiang’s ‘Military Uniforms under the Ancient Mask’ seemed held back by a maximalist approach. Just as in wider Hong Kong culture, the ruthless weaving together of East and West can lead to muddied waters and Jiang’s fusion of ethnic pattern and print with seemingly Western, clumpy design (box jackets, elaborate collar detailing, patches of print) faulted, although the final look was much cleaner and provided a succinct statement of intent (albeit in vain.)

Gillian Koo’s collection ‘Two-Sided’ was glacial in palette and in sensation, using latex and heavy silk in angular compositions that seemed utterly modern, innovative and above all, beautiful.

Addy Xu
Addy Xu

Addy Xu’s ‘Beating’ was bold in it’s use of colour and showed mesmerising technical skill in its use of tight horizontal pleats. The result was a collection that seemed to nod to its Asian heritage yet possessed an international, modern aesthetic that would be as at home in Milan or Paris as in Hong Kong or Tokyo.

Tinna Cai

Tinna Cai’s ‘Variation of DNA’ collection was obviously as indebted to modern society, using Watson and Crick’s double helix as a basis for geometric prints on chiffon, serpentine tailoring and stunning laser-cut plastic textiles.

Fiona Wong’s ‘Psychedelic’ collection managed to avoid the potholes of clichéd hippie themes and instead rooted itself in clean tailoring, with column dresses to the knee and beautiful bell boleros in clear, candy-coloured PVC. This prevalence of unusual textiles across the course reflects both the experimentation encouraged by the course leaders but also, the demographic of Hong Kong, where designers can put these creations out and know buyers are going to snap them up- and not just for boutique, high-end department stores but also for the streets. Unlike London’s avant-garde designs, (which are the exclusive domain of a small collection of magazines, It-girls, and indie kids), in Hong Kong there is a real market for these creations.

Stephanie Wang’s ‘Tranquil Afternoon’ was heavy and ornamental, borrowing from Baroque in its excess and from Victoriana and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in its use of floral and natural prints and in the ruff details. At the same time, the approach to and collage of these influences played with the Asian sub-cultural nostalgia for the historic West, and with the Japanese concept of ‘kawaii’

Hebe Lam on the other hand took influence from Egypt with her ‘Engraved Perception’ collection, using the geometric potential of ancient hieroglyphics as a basis for bold prints, combined with solid, warrior-like silhouettes in black leather, laser-cut and embellished. This aggressive, two-sided aesthetic seemed to be a visual allusion (deliberately or not) to the modern crisis in Egypt, set against the glory of its ancient history. Excitingly, the boldest look of all from this collection was an elongated leather tunic with conical bib collar worn by a male model.

Next, Erin Jin’s ‘Son of Unknown’ mined the visual culture of the Wild West, rendering details such as bolo ties and Cowboy shirts in metallic, synthetic materials so that the idea of the Space Cowboy really came to life. Again, the centerpiece of this collection seemed to be the menswear looks, with elaborate shoulder pads and headwear, and the influence of sportswear creeping in. At this junction, it is worth noting the emphasis put upon avant-garde menswear looks within this graduate show- something only just taking full hold in the UK with the London Collections of the last few years. This approach to menswear on the catwalk reflects a wider openness and experimentation in the streets, where androgyny seems the current youth obsession (unsurprising in the wake of K-Pop’s feminised male pop-stars. To take just one example of this influence, look to Taeyang of the band BigBang in the front row of Givenchy couture last week.)

It is easy to over-analyse a show like this- to bring in cultural contexts, emerging markets, political superpowers, international shifts and trends etc., etc. But it always comes down to the actual fashion being presented and in this case, the clothes were of a really incredible quality in both design and production, especially for a graduate show. These designers were each trying to push at the boundaries of design, of textile use, of gender traditions. I look forward to seeing what they are able to achieve as they embark on their careers in earnest.

Words by Will Ballantyne-Reid