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Cut out for a career in fashion design

Published on Thursday, 31 May 2012
Connie Wong
Photo: Thomas Yau

When Connie Wong Lan-sam was a fashion student, she made it a priority to dress to impress. She would dress up from head to toe for school, wearing eye-catching make-up, along with matching accessories and clothing. Now, with 10 years of experience in fashion design, she has become more down to earth with her outfits, but her passion for fashion has never slackened. The fashion designer for local brand Jo’s Ready To Wear enjoys looking at people on the street for design inspiration.

How did you get started with fashion?
I had always wanted to stand out with my outfit since I was in secondary school. So I chose to study fashion at university. During my pursuit of a degree in fashion and clothing studies at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), I participated in various fashion design competitions to broaden my horizons. I was lucky to pick up a number of awards along the way, and was employed by a fur design company right after graduation.

Fur is a unique material to work with and I learned a lot from the company’s Italian fur designers. Later, I decided to try something new, so I moved on to designing outfits for women for my current company.
Who is your role model or mentor?
I have two valuable mentors who helped me develop my fashion career. The first is my teacher at PolyU, Professor Kim Liew. He taught me what it meant to be beautiful. His concepts of how to make use of colours to make a piece of clothing stand out is inspiring. I consider him my enlightener in fashion.

The second is my current boss at Jo’s Ready To Wear. She taught me about incorporating wearer’s comfort into fashion design. She inspired me to create eye-catching designs, along with three-dimensional cutting that fits comfortably on the human body.

What do you think of the local fashion scene?
There are lots of individuals who are talented in, and passionate about, fashion design. Many want to have their own boutique or showroom, but this is an almost unattainable goal because the rents here are impossible.

Online is a more affordable platform for designers to promote their work, but it is not yet popular among local consumers. I think there is huge potential in shopping for fashion online in Hong Kong.
Where do you shop for clothes?
I am less than impressed by chain stores in Hong Kong, so I no longer shop in malls. I go online instead. I find much more surprise and inspiration there.

I like to explore the streets to see how people dress. The same piece of clothing can create very different effects when matched with others. I find it fascinating to see people work their magic with mix-and-match.

What are your plans for the future?
Having worked for female clothing throughout my career, I hope to have the chance to work with children clothing. Children have such tiny and cute bodies that they look cute in almost every outlook. I love to dress up my three-year-old boy for Halloween and Chinese New Year.
What gives you inspiration for design?
I have to create four seasons of design every year and it can be mind-blogging. What I hear and what I see everyday inspires me. It can be a building, a piece of furniture or a well-dressed person I see on the street. I also never stop reading fashion magazines and going online to see the latest trends.

Any advice for those wanting to enter the fashion industry?
Having an eye for fashion does not necessarily translate into being a talented fashion designer. Do not think knowing how to dress up nicely means you can be a fashion designer. Get formal design training and learn how to work with textiles and the techniques in making a piece of clothing. Shrinking European and US markets mean mainland [China] offers the most opportunities for designers, so one you must be ready to work there.

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