When ambition and reflection pay off
We dance like little Mary’s swaying to the symphony of destruction, AMFI graduate Yvonne Kwok’s degree collection has taken hold of its public. Not only has it been selected as a finalist for Best International Collection at London Graduate Fashion Week (at which AMFI is a regular participant) but it also won the top award at Lichting during Amsterdam Fashion Week.
Using many different types of hand techniques Yvonne designed a young, feminine collection of separates. Soft, candy coloured pleated skirts and tiered blouses in floating chiffon compliment smocked leather. The rigidity of paper armour, with intricate studding, embroidery and lacing, contrasts with the overall fluidity of the collection. This armour acts as an accessory, either strapped close to the body or forming a pannier effect over the shoulders and in some instances hung away from the front pelvis in a drummer boy fashion. This playful collection evokes happy feelings. Yvonne’s collection is not just elegant and pretty. It is also clever; with references to marionettes, carnival and punk culture it is a reflection on the role fashion plays in our lives today.
Mark Atkinson saw Yvonne’s collection at London GFW and at the AMFI and Lichting shows in Amsterdam. He interviews Yvonne.
OK but what was your focus when actually designing the collection? Who was your collection for?
So far my work as a designer is based on my emotions and intuition. I always have a technique in mind but I like to work very freely and let things happen. I have a stepped approach, working in turn with colours, materials and shape. You may be able to recognise the process in my designs; I think it is important it remains visible.
I would love to see people wearing my clothes, combining them with the rest of their wardrobe. I have however designed garments I wanted to wear myself, garments I was longing for at a certain time. They are the product of a story I wanted to tell.
For this collection I had Claire Boucher (of Grimes) in mind. She’s a bit punky and alternative and she really has her own style. I really like that. You could say that I design fashion to answer my needs and to express my identity.
What inspired the design of your collection?
My three references are marionette, carnival and punk. A marionette is a doll controlled by others. This is what I sometimes feel fashion is turning us into. The pressure and anxieties fashion creates can lead to mental disorder, to destruction.
Carnival on the other hand is a time when the laws and standards of regular life are suspended and social hierarchies are being lifted. Both, marionette and carnival rely on forms of caricature and grotesque. In my design this comes through where body parts like the shoulder and pelvis are being blown up by the use of different folding techniques.
The edgy side of punk comes in the sporty jacket where I made use of knitwear and neoprene combined with big golden brads. Humour is also important. If we, in fashion, take everything too seriously we risk killing any sense of fun. This collection is based on humour VS destruction.
How do you explain your collection was so well received?
This collection is one big experiment. I’ve used tons of different materials and colours and techniques but I still managed to find a balance in it. You can really see a process in my design and notice that the inclusion of every little pompon and brad has been thought about.
I really put a lot of love and handwork into it. I like to make detailed pieces. I feel they give value to my work and turn it into something you want to cherish.
What factors do you think may affect fashion in a significant way in the next few years?
I think technology will change fashion in the next few years. A lot of upcoming fashion designers focus on the technological side of fashion. At the same time I think that handcrafting is something people love and want to see more of but used in innovative ways. The wearer experience and the values behind the product are also becoming more important.
What did you learn about the creative process through designing your collection?
I think it is really important to trust your own vision. There are always people to tell you to do things differently but in the end your degree collection should really tell something about you as a creative individual. At the same time I also think it’s important to be open to everything, to surprises and discovery; they are key to design. I consider myself a cutting edge designer simply because I’m always searching and allowing myself to discover new things during the design process.
What was the toughest challenge you faced while studying fashion?
The first year at AMFI was really hard. I had problems managing time and stress.
In the beginning I was wasting time doubting too much. Eventually I realised there was no use being afraid or worried. What if you fail? Failure is learning. I learned to trust my instincts and make quicker decisions.
In the end my graduation project went very smoothly. I made strict plans and the process turned out to be mainly fun. I had a lot of adrenaline to keep me in a constant design flow. At times I felt very tired but I always loved the collection I was making.
What is your advice to someone about to start studying fashion?
You’ll need to have a lot of passion and ambition to do this. You need the drive and focus to challenge yourself each time you finish a project. Studying fashion is something very personal and being judged on what you have designed can be enraging or intimidating. You’ll need self-awareness and introspection to get the best out of yourself.