For Kapture Chiu Yu-hang, fashion is more than just trendy clothes. It is his medium of choice to explore social issues. “I express my thoughts and social commentary through clothes,” says the 24-year-old assistant fashion designer who works at the product development department of South Grand Fashions Garment.
For instance, his knitwear design project for graduation at Nottingham Trent University last year featured abstract crochet motifs and wavy patterns meant to draw attention to the mounting stress in modern society.
At an early age, Chiu found he had a great passion and talent for drawing. He doodled designs on his sister's Barbie doll. He later developed a deep interest in fashion. “I was completely captivated by the fashion shows on TV,” he says. His uncle, whose hobby was painting, also influenced him to become a designer.
How have you benefited from participating in various design competitions?
I was an introvert before entering the REMIX Fur Design Competition in Milan two years ago. Meeting a lot of people there made me sociable.
Because it was the first time a Hong Kong designer won the Gold Award, my school took the opportunity to promote its design programme.
The winning piece was a mink jacket titled “wilted wood” – one of my graduation projects at the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education. It helped me land a job.
After my sketches were chosen by the judges, I started working with a local fur coat maker that eventually sponsored my designs.
Why did you choose knitwear for your degree project and launch your career at a knitwear firm?
Knitwear presents unlimited creative possibilities. It can produce many different visual effects through a combination of patterns and motifs.
What are the main challenges you have encountered so far?
Initially, I struggled with designs for men which my supervisor found too feminine. Men's wear should be less fancy. I did more research and came up with subdued styles.
It’s also challenging to develop original designs. The key, I believe, lies in observation. I spend a lot of time studying the latest fashion, identifying interesting details and styles. I carry a sketch book with me all the time and jot down notes whenever I come across anything stimulating. I also take snapshots of interesting things with my camera phone.
What do you want to express through your design?
I try to express my concerns and discontent over certain social issues. For instance, my degree graduation project aimed at highlighting how stressful Hongkongers are; a friend’s mother was driven to suicide by stress. To convey this abstract concept through knitwear, I used crochet to create three-dimensional wavy forms, symbolising the ups and downs of moods and emotions.
What is your career goal?
I want to create my own fashion brand, which will reflect social issues and serve as the medium for me to share my experiences and views. If the venture is profitable, I would like to provide financial support to fashion design students. I think they need exposure to the production process in order to develop creative and wearable designs.
What is your advice for students of fashion design in Hong Kong?
They should keep in mind that fashion design is a delicate balance between creativity and commercial elements. They have to understand that the theatricality in fashion shows is meant to grab attention. Many highly successful fashion designers apply their well-honed skills in simplifying fantastic designs you see on the runway into highly wearable clothes.
When I started the programme in fashion design, I was concerned about my career prospects. The fashion industry in Hong Kong seemed to be shrinking, with the bulk of manufacturing shifted to the mainland. Yet, as I become more familiar with the local garment sector, I’m confident about the future of the field. Hong Kong has become a major design centre, offering many opportunities for home-grown designers.
Capturing the limelight
- Kapture Chiu received a higher diploma in fashion design and product development programme from the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE), Kwai Chung, in 2009.
- Chiu won the Gold Award in the 2009 REMIX Fur Design Competition held in Milan, Italy.
- He completed a top-up degree in fashion design offered by Nottingham Trent University, Britain, in May last year in partnership with IVE.
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