Tuesday 7 May 2013

Audi Star Creation 2012 Winners: Q&A with Roderic Wong from China, one year on...

As someone who's very interested in the emerging designers scene, I often wonder about these young talents I encounter and what it is like to have been on their journey so far - regardless how short it may seem to be.

Last year, one of the most enjoyable things I followed on this blog was the Audi Star Creation competition where I interviewed all 12 finalists and got to see their final showdown on the runway at Audi Fashion Festival (AFF).

The three designers who eventually won were Roderic Wong from China, Ko Youngji from South Korea and Soravit Kaewkamon from Thailand whom each got a one-year internship at F J Benjamin in Singapore to get a valuable experience in the industry and a cash prize to kick-start their careers.

Fast forward one year, and here are the three designers preparing for their second show at the upcoming AFF this month and I have to say, I can't wait for time round too!

But before I get to see their new collection, I had some questions for each of the winners and was intrigued to know how was the past year like for them.

I will post these short interviews over 3 days starting today, and will also be giving away 5 pairs of tickets to watch their show at AFF (check the facebook page for details).

Today, I'll start with the designer whose work truely wowed me for he uses unconventional techniques and has a keen eye on details. This is Roderic Wong who no doubt has a great future ahead of him in fashion. Check out what he has to say regarding his internship, evolution as a designer and future plans!

A look from Roderic Wong's winning collection of 2012, 'tissue of being'!
Looking forward to see his new collection at AFF this year too.

Roderic Wong, 28, China
Intern at F J Benjamin

Has the internship at F J Benjamin changed your perspective on any aspects of the fashion industry? What is the most valuable thing you learned during your internship? 

The industry really moves very quickly...sometimes too fast almost! This is inevitable in such a creative and dynamic space I suppose, but I tend to like spending time deliberating and working out every little detail in my designs, so the fast pace is something I am trying to adapt to. One of my biggest takeaways from my internship is that understanding the market and establishing a clear cut brand direction will determine the success or failure of a brand. 

What was the biggest challenge you have faced? 

Singapore’s limited resources makes fashion designing very hard. In China, if I wanted to use a metal chain as an embellishment for a top, all I have to do is head to Dong Jia Du fabric market (in Shanghai) and there would be a plethora of choices for my picking. In Singapore, however, the suppliers are dotted all over the island and they usually only stock a handful of designs. 

Roderic speaking to the media after his show last year.

Last year, your winning collection ‘Tissue of Being’ featured hand spun material which wowed the judges and the crowds alike. Are you continuing with the same approach in the new collection and why? 

Similar to last year, I will be re‐texturizing and creating my own fabrics through material manipulation. In this collection, you will see a lot of wool, pashmina and silk. I think that material manipulation will be the next big thing in fashion design. It is something I have always been interested in and have been exploring for a while. 

How has your work evolved from what we’ve seen last year? 

The pieces in my capsule collection are more wearable than those from my competition collection last year. I’ve also put in more intricate workmanship, with a focus on piping and paneling details. In contrast to the predominantly white colour palette last year, this collection will be much darker, in black, indigo and purple. 

Some great young designers who come from China – although successful at home  are finding it hard to break into international (or even regional) markets due to the preconception that China is more of a ‘cheap’ and fast fashion hub than highend, quality and innovative designs, hence major wellknown retailers are reluctant to stock them. How do you feel about this? Would it play a role in your decision to base yourself in China or try and break away? 

I don’t think this is a cause for worry. In major fashion capitals like London, when people attend runway shows or visit a showroom displaying works done by a Chinese designer, they are not going with the expectation of seeing cheap, poorly tailored madeChina clothes. If that was what they were expecting from the outset, I think they would not even have bothered to take a look. They go with the expectation of finding fresh ideas or a different design perspective perhaps. China has been the world’s factory for a decade now. Due to high market demand, the factories have grown more efficient while still keeping production costs low. However, that does not mean that China is incapable of producing well-made or high-end products. I would still choose to base myself in China because of the wide variety of resources and efficient production facilities. If you look hard enough, there are actually quality production chains in China that are not focused solely on quick profits and fast fashion. 

As you might have noticed, the fashion industry is quite competitive especially for newcomers like yourself. How are you planning to stand out for the rest of emerging talented designers? 

Actually, I am not in a hurry to make a big splash right away. As someone who is new to the industry, I want to to accumulate knowledge and hone my skills. Right now, I just make sure I work hard and learn as much as possible. 

What is the next step for you? Any plans? 

In light of my upcoming wedding, I have naturally developed an interest in bridal gowns and will be designing my fiancee's gown. I have plans to put out a bridal wear collection alongside my next ready-to-wear collection in November. I hope to be able to release these two collections in Singapore as well as back home in Shanghai. 

What is the best advice you’ve been given in the industry and one which you’d pass on to other aspiring designers in this year’s competition? 

I believe that independent thoughts and ideas are a designer’s most precious asset. 

How did you find the experience of living and working in Singapore for a year in general? What’s the best memory/experience you will take from it? 

I think Singapore is a very well thought out city, almost like a piece of design work. It encapsulates the perfect balance between men and nature. In Shanghai, you would never be able to find so many big green spaces in the middle of all the buildings. This is what I really like about Singapore, it gives me space to breathe and be inspired.