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Into Their Light

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Jessie Wong and Tang Sze Man—members of the 12-man Hong Kong New Design Force—share their insights on design inspiration, personal fashion taste, and making it big in the Hong Kong fashion scene.

At 22, Tang Sze Man and Jessie Wong are both winners in their own right. For one, Jessie holds a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design from Nottingham Trent University.

She also studied High Diploma of Fashion Design at the Hong Kong Design Institute, specializing in knitwear designs.

Man completed her higher diploma in fashion design at the School of Continuing Education at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She now works as a graphic designer for a company that makes children’s clothing and hopes to launch her own label that will feature rich designs in embroidery and motif prints.

During the recently concluded Hong Kong Fashion Week for Spring/Summer 2011, both designers got to showcase their talents, skills, and time that landed them as finalists in one of Hong Kong’s most prestigious contests—the Hong Kong Young Designer Contest 2010.

China Business: What does fashion mean to you?

Wong: Fashion is my life. It is all about art and creativity.
Man: For me, it is a personal expression. It can enhance self-confidence and show one’s character.

When did you realize you wanted to become fashion designers?
W: I remember the first outfit I made for my Barbie doll. At that time, I was amazed how a piece of fabric can become a wearable garment. From then on, I started sewing many clothes for my dolls. I think I’ve been cultivating [the dream] “to be a fashion designer” since I was 12 years old.
M: I was 15 or 16 years old when I realized I like reading fashion magazines. I drew inspiration from stories or reviews about New York and Paris fashion weeks. From then on, I knew I wanted to become a fashion designer.

So how did you get into fashion design?
W: After taking the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination, I started to plan my future career. I’d like to pursue something that would help me realize my childhood dream, so I chose fashion design for further study.
M: I joined a children’s wear company immediately after my graduation.

How long does it usually take you to construct a piece?
W: About four to five hours for a simple top. But if the design is complicated, it usually takes about three to four days. That is because I want to progress a good design with a good finishing.
M: To build a piece, it usually takes two to three days, but to design a whole collection, I need one to two weeks to create all the sketches.

Where do you get your design inspiration?
W: I usually get inspiration from my experiences and the things that surround me. I love walking around everywhere and taking photos. When I feel something special on what I have seen, I will mark it down in my visual diary. My designs usually change along with my feeling—what I have seen, heard, or felt.
M: I get my design inspiration from every detail and dark emotion in this world. “Let people express themselves” is the philosophy behind it.

Can you describe your personal style?
W: I love raspberry very much so I always incorporate deep red or deep purple as the main color in my collection. I will still be my signature color in the future.
M: Actually, my fashion style is ‘no style!’ I don’t want locking my design style because I like to try varieties in my collection.

Who are some of your favorite designers?
W: Mine would be Sandra Bucklund. If you look at her designs, you won’t believe all the garments are knitwear because she transforms natural silhouettes of knitwear and made it structural. Her designs are works of art and without trend! She uses traditional handicraft techniques and has experience with different materials. I really admire how she explored her designs.
Another favorite is Alexander Wang. His designs look natural and simple but detailed. Also, he is greatly skilled in tailoring. I love his detailed edge designs. He usually uses lightweight and soft fabrics such as chiffon, so his designs make me feel comfortable.
M: My favorite designer is Marc Jacobs.

What is the best part of being a designer?
W: Don’t hesitate to show your thoughts in the designs
M: That we get to showcase our skills and show our own designs in the platform.

What do you enjoy most about designing clothes?
W: I enjoy progressing the clothes. I am satisfied seeing my clothes being done step by step.
M: The fact that I design for kids.

And what’s the most challenging part?
W: 3D development and the balance of wearability and creativity are the most challenging parts. For 3D development, it is necessary to experiment and try the possibility and wearability of new silhouette or new fashion details. I also need to be concerned about the fabric and the construction of garments because they may affect the design I want. For balance of wearability and creativity, it is difficult to average these two elements in a design. Sometimes, I just emphasize on one side but I always remind myself that wearability and creativity are the “must- have components” in fashion design.
M: That I need to keep my emotions high and happy almost all the time.

What is a typical day for you like?
W: Actually, there is no typical day for me. After getting into fashion design, I found out that new challenges appear every day. It is unexpected. So, every day is my typical day.

What do you wish people would understand about working in the fashion industry?
W: I wish other people don’t just duplicate the designs of famous fashion designers or follow the trend blindingly. We should just analyze the designs and add our ideas and personality into it.

What trends do you see going big this year?
W: I think Hypercolor and colorful prints will be hot.
M: I’ll go with solid metal [accessories].

Print ed: 09/11


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