When talking about knitwear, many may think it incompatible with suits. However, Tina TSOI Sze-ting, a final-year student pursuing the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Fashion Design programme at the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong (THEi), has revolutionised the traditional image of knitwear by innovatively blending it into suit designs. With her impressive knitted women’s fashion series, Tina recently won the first runner-up prize and the Best Use of Australian Merino Wool Award at the 9th Hong Kong Young Knitwear Designers’ Contest organised by the Knitwear Innovation and Design Society.
“The whole outfit, including shoes, can actually be put together using knitting techniques,” Tina noted. Majoring in knitwear fashion design in THEi, Tina has acquired consummate knitwear skills. Her liking for the prim silhouette of suits and retro design drives her exploration for outfits that retain the proper tailoring of suits while removing their monotony – hence her production of the successful women’s fashion design, “Shade of Dandy”.
Retro Menswear Design for Dandy as Blueprint
Giving a retro look to the “dandy” menswear style popular in the 1920s, and the trendsetting tennis elements of the ’70s, Tina blended the disparate qualities of traditional suits and retro casual wear, as well as combining elegance with laid-back styling. She deftly used special stitching and tailoring techniques to sew together the knitted cloth and render her suit design chic, gentlemanly and respectable-looking. Coupled with its sleek essence and her choice of bold colours, the work she has created is stunning.
On the selection of materials, Tina again thought differently. She chose wool as the main material, noting that “wool proves more breathable than other materials. It feels cool in summer and warm in winter. Being a natural material, wool is most suitable for knitwear garments.” It was this element of the design that won “Shade of Dandy” the Best Use of Australian Merino Wool Award in addition to the first runner-up prize.
In contrast to the boldly coloured suits she designed, Tina has a penchant for a minimalist style and subdued colours for her everyday wear. She possesses the knack of using colouring to jazz up simple outfits. “The average office workers wear dark colours with black and white as the main staple, which offer few surprises. But adding a little colour in the accessories will make the look much livelier,” she explained. “Say, a man can put on brightly-coloured neckties like purple or light blue while a lady will have even more options with lightly-coloured scarves, necklaces and bracelets to make her personal statement.”
Starting from Scratch
Looking back on her study so far with THEi, Tina said three streams were offered: menswear, knitwear and accessory design. She opted for knitwear design as more opportunities and variations are available for exploration in terms of wool materials, colouring and structures. Starting from ground zero in THEi, Tina built up her design and knitwear skills, from fundamental sketch drawing to machine sewing. She is now able to use a knitting machine to produce a garment. Indeed a skilled knitter.
Tina added that THEi programme was taught at progressive levels to suit the students. Internship was also provided. THEi arranged for her to work in a knitting garment enterprise as a designer’s assistant, tasked with drawing sketches and sorting wool. She said this internship enabled her to understand the industry better and grasp the relevant techniques. She aspires to join the profession as a fashion buyer or merchandiser after graduation, and has set her hopes on an outstanding future career as a fashion designer.