K11 Musea

Love of Couture: Artisanship in Fashion Beyond Time

in conversation with William Chang Suk-Ping

Left: Straw & silk trimmed with velvet & lace bonnet (circa 1855)
Centre: Printed cotton jacket bodice & skirt (1885)
Right: Printed cotton dress (1835-1840)

A Magazine Curated By pivots its spotlight to Hong Kong, where the exhibition Love of Couture: Artisanship in Fashion Beyond Time took place at K11 Musea, a pioneering cultural-retail landmark in Kowloon. This 2nd edition of the annual couture exhibition, chaired by entrepreneur Adrian Cheng, was a continuation of an innovative and immersive experience that blurs the line between the quotidian consumer and cultural participant.

Embracing its position at the crossroads of East and West, Love of Couture: Artisanship in Fashion Beyond Time celebrated East Asian creativity with dresses by 6 emerging couturiers —  Japanese designer Tomo Koizumi, Chinese designer Yueqi Qi, Japanese designer Ryunosuke Okazaki, Hong Kong designer Celine Kwan, Chinese designer Sensen Lii (Windowsen) and Korean designer Sohee Park (Miss Sohee) — commissioned in response to the classical Western European couture pieces provided by the Victoria & Albert Museum. The study and reference of 12 historical British and French womenswear artefacts, ranging from the Victorian era to the 1960s and Paul Poiret to Yves Saint Laurent, by the contemporary Asian designers set the stage for an exploration of fashion that truly transcends time and space.

The artisanship found within fashion, from technique to materiality, was unveiled in a cinematic approach devised by the acclaimed Hong Kong production designer William Chang Suk-Ping. A futuristic lightscape of fluorescent hues illuminates the industrial space, delineating the sculptural forms of the avant-garde gowns by the six designers. The V&A historical collection stood in anachronistic contrast to its surrounding modernity, yet the jarring neon lights complemented the once-popular silhouettes of crinoline and heirloom tweed. Looking towards the future of fashion, Chang also contemplated its past and established an evolution of artisanship, and creativity for that matter, throughout the centuries — one that inspired the young designers and spectators alike.

Love of Couture: Artisanship in Fashion Beyond Time derives its name from Love After Love, a poem by Derek Walcott. Whilst the Saint Lucian poet eloquently expounds on the necessity of self-appreciation and introspection in his work, the exhibition applied this lesson to fashion, through celebrating its enduring history and reinterpreting its meticulous craft. K11’s visionary ambition, Hong Kong’s cultural legacy and the curated designers’ output culminated into raw creativity ready to be synthesised by the magical direction of William Chang Suk-Ping. In an exclusive interview with A Magazine Curated By, the In The Mood for Love art director describes how he brought Love of Couture: Artisanship in Fashion Beyond Time’s imaginative atmosphere to life.

Left: English printed cotton wedding dress (1835-40)
Centre: Samovar evening dress by Paul Poiret (1921–22)
Right: Wool & leather jacket and dress by Digby Morton (1947-1948)

How did you feel when you were invited to be the production designer of this exhibition? 

William Chang Suk-Ping: This exhibition is driven by imagination, creativity, and passion. K11 has also invited the V&A to collaborate and develop this project, which brings 200 years of couture to Hong Kong for the first time. On top, six emerging Asian fashion designers also have been invited to create new works and showcase signature looks, making this entire exhibition truly one-of-a-kind.

Seeing how these designers have reimagined centuries-old craft and techniques has been truly inspiring, and provided me with a wonderful canvas from which to create and design.

How does the lighting and scenography around the clothing create a cinematic experience here? 

WC: When it comes to a movie or exhibition, it is about storytelling. How the story is told versus how it is interpreted/understood by the audience comes down to whether we have created the environment and setting for them to be able to immerse themselves as the character. In the case of this exhibition, it’s whether the audience can put themselves in the shoes of the young designers or the craftsmen from 200 years ago.

The environment that I wanted to build is one that illustrates how passionate these creative talents are. I was inspired by the poem Love After Love by Derek Walcott – tying it with the exhibition title Love of Couture: Artisanship in Fashion Beyond Time – how one can be immensely ‘in love’ with creating and designing over the centuries. Hence, you see the neon light wall with the words ‘made of Love After Love.’

Visitors also see an MRI scan of a human brain in the state of being in love, which is again a metaphorical expression of being addicted to creative work. These are elements that we incorporate into the environment that take visitors on a journey of imagination. But you would have to come see for yourself in order to fully capture the experience including a special soundtrack, other lighting and sculptures that I have designed from scratch.

Love After Love by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

‘Love After Love’ wall by William Chang

What is the relationship between costume and time, especially as explored in your works such as In The Mood for Love as well as this event Love of Couture?

WC: Fashion, as a part of our everyday lives, is naturally a storyteller of history and culture. The passage of time and cultural shifts are often reflected in fashion, given the highly versatile nature and boundless creativity involved. From concept to structure and fabric to design,  like a beautiful quartet played by the designer and craftsmen, creation is something that is reflective of a moment in time, whether it be the current state or an imagination of a future or alternate space!

Can you describe any references, perhaps from your past works, that you’ve used to create these vignettes? 

WC: When looking at each new project, it’s a white canvas for me. References are not necessarily a “formula”, rather they are what is needed to tell a project’s story. Once we know the narrative, then we start from there to find what is right for the new creation.

How do you envision the future of East Asian fashion and its influence on the world stage?

WC: Multiple cultures have in fact influenced everything over time for centuries,  you just have to look deep and study in order to find out. It has been going on throughout and creates new, interesting dialogues — no matter in fashion or other areas in the creative industry.

V&A References and Contemporary Counterparts

Polynésie evening dress by Yves Saint Laurent for Christian Dior, 1960 (left)
Dress sketch by Sohee Park (right)

Skirt suit and blouse by Elspeth Champcommunal for Worth London, 1942 (left)
Dress by Tomo Koizumi (centre)
Dress by Yueqi Qi (right)

Evening dress by Owen Hyde-Clark for Worth London, 1960 (left)
Dress by Celine Kwan (centre)
Dress by Ryunosuke Okazaki  (right)

La Syphilde silk chiffon & satin evening dress by Charles James, 1937 (left)
Dress by Sensen Lii (right)

Celine Kwan

Celine Kwan

Sohee Park

Sohee Park

Sensen Lii

Sensen Lii

Yueqi Qi

Yueqi Qi

Tomo Koizumi

Tomo Koizumi

Ryunosuke Okazaki

Ryunosuke Okazaki




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