Written by Lio Yeung
Translated by Joel Wong
"Do you still love what you do for a living?" I keep asking myself these days. Sometimes I wonder, if someday I feel I can no longer convince others nor accept everything from this industry, then it's time for me to make a change.
Afa Lee, Singchin Lo, Vann Kwok and I were the alumni of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Design (the last year Fashion Design was combined). Afa is an artist, model, art director, and fashion influencer. Vann is an accessory designer and Singchin is a fashion designer. They are the schoolmates which I admired the most even back in the day.
I graduated more than a decade ago, but not many of our classmates can still be true to themselves, stand for their values, and follow their dreams. Most of them compromised to the hardship of reality. So, I invited three good classmates to talk about fashion design in Hong Kong with their own experience and how they pursue their careers upon graduation. But most importantly, to catch up some old times with them.
From left to right: Singchin Lo, Vann Kwok, Lio Yeung, Afa Lee.
The Breakthrough and Change
I have always admired Vann Kwok, who is so passionate about fashion. She loves fabrics, clothing, and accessories. Soon after she graduated from Poly U, she entered the fashion industry and worked for more than half a year before joining the advertising industry to become an image director. But for most clients, judge an excellent styling on how close it reminiscence the reference image. As well, it was also the days while fast fashion was trendy. Vann was repeating the same work or borrowing and returning items, day in and day out.
Vann became a costume designer for feature films by chance, "Costume designing has nothing to do with the fashion industry, and the aesthetics of a film is what I would refer to as very close to real life." In the world of movies, there is no need to follow the fashion trend. As a costume designer, all you need to do is study the background of the characters and the context of the story to construct the character's backstory through costumes.
Vann got the chance to work with William Chang. After quitting her job as the film's costume designer a few years back, Vann went to the UK to study jewelry design. Now she is back in Hong Kong and running her jewelry brand.
Vann worked with William Chang in the film The Flowers of War directed by Zhang Yi-Mou: "It is the most fulfilling work for me. I handled everything even from the fabrics." But it was the golden era of cop movies in Hong Kong, and creativity in the fashion category was highly restricted, "I once borrowed ad returned the same police uniform jacket dozens of times." Vann said with a smile.
After ten years as a costume designer in the various fields, Vann understood the limitations of using fabrics for her work: "Lady Gaga was popular at the time. While designing costumes for concerts, I realized that so many things that fabrics can't do." Vann soon discovered her interest in designing and making hats. She quitted her job shortly and went to London to study art, as well utilizing this period to settle down and figure out her future direction. Before the start of the semester, Vann served as an apprentice at the studio of Missa, a Japanese hat designer based in the UK, and found that she is more into to doing sculptural-like designs.
Vann Kwok’s own brand VANN
The teaching complex of the university which Vann attended has two floors. The upper floor is the workshop with all the sewing machines, and the lower floor is a factory-like operating area for metalworking. Vann was reluctant to get in front of the sewing machine again, so she decided to skipped all the sessions and went straight to the lower floor and practice metalworking. At that time, the school encouraged all students to participate in various design competitions. Her works were classified as Contemporary Jewellery, and become so delved into it. In 2017, Vann back to Hong Kong upon graduation and started her brand two years later.
Vann Kwok’s own brand VANN
Vann has been practicing her own ideas along her creativity path from integrating fabric and 3D visualization and then set up her own brand. To me, she is someone who is constantly seeking for challenges and breakthroughs, and unwilling to settle for anything less. Her works walk between artsy and trendy, and the materials used are a fusion of technology and traditional craftsmanship.