Designer HIUMAN on the Shanghai fashion week that’s more real than Shanghai Fashion Week
Shanghai Fashion Week (SHFW) took place from October 12-19, featuring 2017 Spring/Summer collections by globally-acclaimed designers such as Uma Wang. Most exciting, however, was satellite event Labelhood, a platform for young designers. Among them, HIUMAN was perhaps the most outstanding.
At Labelhood, which took place for just the second time this autumn, oversized silhouettes, dangling belts and other elements of global youth culture swept the shows of forward-looking young Chinese designers heavily influenced by Western culture. Cantonese menswear designer Hiuman Chau (周晓雯), however, brought her nostalgia for Hong Kong into her 2017 Spring and Summer collection.
At the end of her Labelhood show, Hiuman presented “Memories of Mongkok” (below), a short film in which a boy walks through bustling Kowloon streets in an undershirt, baggy trousers, and a fluorescent green coat reminiscent of the city’s iconic neon lights. The music, overdubbed with a monologue typical of Wang Kar-wai films, instantly evokes Hong Kong in the ’80s and ’90s. Hong Kong movies, music and style from this golden era have a special significance for Mainland Chinese who grew up with fewer fashion choices, and before the People’s Republic had its own pop culture.
What inspires you about Hong Kong before the handover?
I was born in Guangdong, and Hong Kong culture from the ’80s and ’90s has been profoundly influential on Mainland Chinese millennials like myself. After studying overseas, we experienced tremendous changes in our mindsets and our lifestyles. Hong Kong represents my teenage years and what’s lost in my home city. What I really want to suggest is real Chinese street style, which mixes local and foreign, old and new, instead of a wholly imported style: the long robes of Indian residents, the netted undershirts of old men shopping at food markets, the dense high-rises captured in photographer Michael Wolf’s lens – dynamic civilian life on the street. I felt the local Hong Kong people are living a positive life, even though some of them are not very rich.
The imagery of Hong Kong I use intertwines reality and imagery from films, but everyone has his or her own associations. I translate my memories into garments, but I know they are unstable. When people look at them, they see something familiar but also strange.
Your use of patterns and colours in this collection is very confident, but the theme could be seen as pessimistic. Nostalgia is melancholy. Is today’s Hong Kong still an inspiring place for you?
The whole world is becoming similar. Mainland China is struggling to connect to the world and there is a trend of homogenization. Some moral values have been lost, and people are very unsure about the future. But the daily culture of Hong Kongers, the mixed cultural ecosystem remains unique. When we look at something, we should place ourselves in its original context. Something pioneering in the past should still be avant-garde in a contemporary context.
You first showed at Shanghai Fashion Week last year. What do you think of it as a platform for your designs?
The catwalk is sometimes too narrow an experience to fully express a designer’s idea. I’ve been thinking about a more immersive way of presenting clothes, with multimedia to immerse the audience in the context and interact with the clothes, like an art exhibition. Last season, Dongliang, a retail store which represents independent Chinese designers, collaborated with Shanghai Fashion Week to found Labelhood, a platform that aims to promote emerging talents, open to new ways of presenting fashion. They are a group of people very eager to improve the industry, and they made my vision come true.
What role does Labelhood, which took place on Yuanmingyuan Road, near the Bund, play alongside the orginal Shanghai Fashion Week at Xintiandi?
Labelhood introduced a lot of new ideas. It seems like rather than the main site, Labelhood is the real fashion week. It stands up for the aesthetics of Chinese youth and things fashion fans here are actually interested in. With the arrival of Labelhood, Shanghai Fashion Week has the potential to rise to an international platform.
How can Shanghai Fashion Week be more relevant?
China has too many fashion weeks. China Fashion Week, which takes place in Beijing, is more established and commercial, while Shanghai is more avant-garde with iconic designers such as Angel Chen and Momo Wang (Museum of Friendship). They might not be perfect, but they’re fun.
Looking abroad, Milan and Paris have a rich heritage – the terroir for fashion is incomparable – but London is what we should look up to. London Fashion Week gives birth to stars thanks to public institutions like the British Fashion Council where emerging talents can seek support. If they want to experiment with some techical fabrics, they can do it at a very low cost.
In China, there’s not too much support from the industry to help young talents present their designs at a low costs. The government could play a powerful supporting role, but instead Labelhood worked it out.
You had a fantastic show, but you’re still among a tier of smaller, independent designers. How do you become a major brand?
Step by step. I’m now focusing on building my own aesthetics and style. For the present, I mainly rely on retailers like Opening Ceremony and Dongliang. And in the future, I may start a new line that’s easier to wear and cheaper.
HIUMAN's 2017 Spring/Summer collection
Image sources: HIUMAN Studio
- Article by Stephanie Fan