I make a bit of a mockery of my Hong Kong identity card (in addition to being a British citizen, I also have right of abode in Hong Kong). It sits in my drawer gathering dust in its plastic cover whilst I barely visit Hong Kong unless it’s for work purposes or I need to go back, to swipe my card through, let the authorities know that I’m still alive and thus carry on this charade of being a Hong Kong citizen. It remains symbolically important to my parents that I have some sort of tenuous legal link to Hong Kong and so in my drawer it remains, with my barely 18 year old mug shot grimacing back at me.
I’ll be making a very short trip back to Hong Kong tomorrow before we then embark on a family trip to Tokyo together (I’ll regale you all later with the tantrums, the culture gaffes and the LOLz moments when six Lau family members get together). My own ties to Hong Kong becomes more tenuous as the years go by and it’s exacerbated when people quiz me about what’s going on fashion wise. In the past I’ve shrugged and my eyebrows furrowed – I don’t normally have a bleeding clue.
Thankfully, I can finally put some names out there and cheerlead my distant motherland as it were. Strangely they both share similar aesthetics but in a teensy tiny island region where there are only a handful of fashion designers, there’s definitely strength in numbers. First off is Cynthia Mak. Her S/S 15 lookbook popped up in my inbox this morning in fact. She graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2010 and spent years since working at the likes of Alexander McQueen, Roksanda Ilincic and Preen before returning to Hong Kong where the obvious fashion routes were at I.T. and Lane Crawford (where else…). Moving out of the safe zone of fashion buying, she has bravely launched her own label and here’s an early early peek at her S/S 15 collection – all linear lines, negative/positive spaces and strong silhouettes, heavily inspired by Daniel Buren. It’s a bold start and one that definitely intrigues. Mak’s savvy as a former fashion buyer puts her in good stead but Hong Kong isn’t the most forgiving of cities when it comes to young designers. Perhaps a tide of change is on its way. PMQ, the newly opened a creative hub of studios and shops is certainly one positive step forward. Having a clutch of designers, who have gained education and experience abroad and riskily starting up back in Hong Kong is another sign that the environment for fashion is becoming less hostile.
I then bring you Jourden. Anais Mak’s label Jourden was set up in 2012 and has been quickly galvanising its reputation with both international and local tastemakers giving the label lots of love (HK blogger Tina Leung, style icon Hilary Tsui and blogger Denni Elias have worn the brand to name a few). Balancing masculinity and femininity, Jourden’s starkly dramatic silhouettes are contrasted with a fascination with heavily textured surfaces. “The Jourden girl is crusty, candid and determined but also introvert at times. In our times to be proper means very rebellious,” says Mak in her press notes accompanying the AW 14-5 collection. I don’t know how “crusty” these very exacting clothes are but they definitely crinkle and rustle with a tactile mix of quilted confetti, mohair fun fur and other shimmery synthetics. Jourden will be going into Opening Ceremony in both New York and Los Angeles for the first time this season, returning to OC’s very first season back in 2002 when Humberto Leon and Carol Lim travelled to Hong Kong to bring wares back to their store.
The reality is there’s a world of difference between the fashion scene in Hong Kong back then and what it is now. Both Cynthia Mak and Jourden represent something of a new guard in the city and hopefully, with my well preserved ID card, I’ll be able to go back more often to engage with this burgeoning scene as opposed to quietly observing it from afar.