On September 5th, Hong Kong’s fashion week equivalent, Centrestage, kicked off its third edition at the commercial district of Wan Chai’s Convention and Exhibition Centre. With a capacity to fit over 140,000 visitors a day, the venue’s sky-high ceilings and expansive spaces — in a city renowned for its miniature ‘shoebox’ apartments — make it Hong Kong’s foremost event destination.
As far as fashion weeks go, it is comparatively unassuming — the traditional fashion week buzz is less evident — but this doesn’t take the shine away from a trio of creative talents. Headlining the entire event are the Centrestage Elites, three of Asia’s most promising designers, who have already secured global status: Hong Kong native Idism, Xiamen-based label, Ms Min, and Tokyo’s Facetasm.
Opening the runway show with Idism, a deep red hue drenched the room, reminiscent of the illusionary artworks of James Turrell. In fact, Turrell’s vibrant light installations were the starting point for SS’19. “Turrell’s installations are multisensory — an important element of the whole experience is to activate all of the human senses, on top of the visual aspect,” explains designer and co-founder Julio Ng. “We wanted to create a collection that features numerous elements to challenge all five senses.”
He outlines how jackets and trousers, made from bonded cotton and cuprous silk bonded fabrics, are designed to surprise the sense of touch. “We also added a series of braille details onto fabrics, with slogans like I was blind, but now I see, so even people who are visually impaired will be able to metaphorically ‘see’ our collection,” adds Cyrus Wong, the other half of the design duo. Additionally, a number of fabrics were selected based on the unique sounds they create when touched.
Vibrant colours are also a major hallmark of the collection, as shown on flowing translucent dresses, and versatile shirt dresses that transform at the pull of a string. Balancing out these feminine pieces are athleisure leggings and long sleeve sports tops with neon prints. “Julio often takes photos of places that remind him of his childhood and old Hong Kong – the prints are a reflection of these images,” says Wong.
Only five seasons in, the duo showed their first four collections in Paris, but chose to return to their roots to showcase in Hong Kong this season. “As we are a Hong Kong-based brand, it’s great that we have the opportunity to showcase here for the first time. It’s special for us, and we want our Asian audience to get to know our brand better,” states Ng.
Mixing modern silhouettes with timeless classicism, Ms Min draws heavily on designer Min Liu’s Chinese heritage, often infusing Chinoiserie details like mandarin collars, frog closures and jacquard embroidery. For SS’19 these details surface again on asymmetric tunics and floor-length Cheongsam-inspired dresses with slim cuts.
“I find Chinese traditional costume has an amazing way of combining all these different colours and patterns on jacquard. It’s very rich but in a sophisticated way,” says Liu of her historical influences in a Centrestage campaign video.
Discussing a vivid forest green jacquard dress with frog closure details, the label’s president (and Liu’s husband), Ian Hylton, states: “It’s an understated elegance — this colour took a lot of work, I can't count how many lab trips Min had to go through — but achieving a colour like this is not easy, especially when you’re working in Italy.”
Launching in 2010, on China’s biggest online marketplace, Taobao, the label has showcased its past three collections in New York and Paris. They presented for the final time in New York for AW’18, choosing to focus on Paris moving forward. Showing for the first time in Hong Kong, Liu has a sweet spot for the city since collaborating with luxury retailer, Lane Crawford, in 2013. “Hong Kong is an important and inspiring city for me. I always feel it has an east meets west approach, and that’s very much what Ms Min is about,” she says.
“We are very honoured to have been invited [to Centrestage],” adds Hylton proudly. “We have a very successful partnership with Lane Crawford, so we are excited about showing our latest collection to the city.” Now, the brand has over 35 international stockists include Dongliang in Beijing, Plum in Lebanon, and TotoKaelo in New York, as well as its own flagship store in Shanghai.
Facetasm closed the three-part show with a shower of silver confetti. In line with the label’s eclectic and playful ethos, SS’19 blends a mish-mash of influences. “Facetasm means lots of facets, so I always want to imbue each season with new meaning,” explains Tokyo born and raised designer, Hiromichi Ochiai, in the Centrestage video. “It’s not about every season having a particular inspiration. I find inspiration in everything.”
He does, however, loosely refer to a theme of “togetherness” for this season, uniting his childhood feelings with his adult experiences. Americana influences materialise as suede fringed ponchos, whilst punk rock elements surface on studded biker jackets. Thrown into the genderless mix are deconstructed tulle dresses, tailored suit jackets and a wealth of textures.
Charting a decade of success, and now a household name in Japan, the label has showcased at numerous global fashion weeks including Tokyo, Milan and Paris, and this is the first time they are showing in another Asian city. “Hong Kong is the first place outside of Japan to buy Facetasm, so really, I associate the place with my brand’s international debut,” said Ochiai.