With its high durability and lasting power, denim was originally used for miners’ workwear in the 19th century, but has evolved over the years to become an essential element of fashion. To promote the art of denim fashion, the Hong Kong Design Institute (HKDI), a member institution of the Vocational Training Council (VTC), recently organised the first Hong Kong Denim Festival. Teachers and students joined hands to organise a series of thematic events, bringing a “feast” of denim fashion to fashionistas, designers and artists.
Blending toughness and gentleness
Graduate of HKDI’s Higher Diploma in Fashion Image Design Shirley WONG is one of the local designers who took part in the “King of Fashion: Denim” exhibition and Denim Bazaar during the festival. Shirley created her own womenswear brand after working as a costume designer in the television and movie industry. Previously she has used mostly suit fabric for her designs, but this time, to push herself beyond her limits, she made her first attempt at adding denim elements to her Women’s Spring/Summer Collection. Her design was exhibited in the Hong Kong Denim Festival.
“Denim is a highly malleable material,” Shirley explained. “With its different strengths, weight and washing techniques, every type of denim presents a different style. Denim gives people a feeling of strength and toughness, while my designs tend to be more feminine, so I thought of combining the two styles. I used a thinner and glossier type of denim for one of the dresses of the collection, adding a square buckle and zipper as decorations on top in order to demonstrate women’s charms blending toughness and gentleness.” She praised the event for providing a platform for young designers like her to promote their own brand to the industry.
Cool, calm and collected
“Sham Shui Po Downtown Denim” was another highlight of the event. It was held in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong’s last remaining fabric wholesale centre, where HKDI students of Higher Diploma in Fashion Image Design demonstrated their skills in hair and make-up styling, fashion design and photography during a Pop-Up Fashion Performance.
Christy FOK, one of the participating students, made use of stiff denim for a men’s tuxedo design with Scottish pleated bottom, metal buckles and chains, along with a denim cummerbund to exude the air of a European noble. Having been used to making only womenswear, she had to jump out of her comfort zone for this male outfit, spending most of her efforts on the pleated bottom. “I spent a day to iron every pleat due to the stiffness of the fabric used for the pleated bottom,” said Christy.
Christy also experienced the difficulties one might come across on the job and learnt how to adapt her designs to a tight schedule. “As the model was replaced only a few days before the show, the vest I sewed did not fit, but there was not enough time to make a new one. Thus, I modified the design and replaced the plait leather with a simple iron button. In the end the minimal style accentuated the glamour of the coat, surpassing the original design.”
In addition to the fashion show, fabric stores in Sham Shui Po were turned into exhibition venues where textile vendors displayed their wares, including denim creations and items with authentic Hong Kong touches. Guided tours were arranged to bring visitors to the textile merchants near Ki Lung Street and Yu Chau Street and learn about the local textile industry’s history and development.
Students of HKDI’s Higher Diploma in Fashion Branding and Buying designed and prepared the promotional materials for the textile merchants who took part in the exhibition. Venus CHOW was among them, utilising her window display and 3D drawing skills learnt at school to design a collection of exhibits for one merchant, including posters with a retro illustration and slogan, neon signs sewed with denim, handwritten bills and an iron mailbox . Her aim was to create a nostalgic atmosphere and arouse people's attention to denim fashion.
Teacher-in-charge of the event Elita LAM, Head of the Department of Fashion and Image Design at HKDI, is a denim fan herself. “Denim fashion has been popular since the 1970s to ’80s in Hong Kong. Factories used to be all around, yet only a few still remain today. I hope the Denim Festival can bring back Hong Kong people’s love for denim fashion.” said Elita.
Adding denim knowledge in programmes
Elita noted that the use of denim and denim garment production training had been added into various design-related higher diploma programmes at HKDI. The denim works of students were displayed during fashion shows in the United States, Amsterdam, Shanghai and elsewhere. In addition, the Institute arranged for one student from the Higher Diploma in Fashion Design and another from the Higher Diploma in Fashion Design Menswear to undertake further studies at the Jean School in Amsterdam. It also arranged internships at denim suppliers for students to grasp the skills of using different types of denim.
The Hong Kong Denim Festival, staged from 11 to 27 January , included events like King of Fashion: Denim, Denim Bazaar and Sham Shui Po Downtown Denim. Denim creations by HKDI graduates, local and overseas designers and garments created by classic denim brands were exhibited. Various denim-related workshops were also held during the festival.