Designers Making a Difference


These five graduates from Hong Kong Design Institute made a splash at the DFA Hong Kong Young Design Talent Awards 2016, taking home top prizes and together winning a total of HKD 750,000 for their playfully innovative designs that exhibit social conscience and environmental awareness

Gim Wong Lai-yu

Gim Wong was awarded the CreateSmart Young Design Talent Special Award for her ingenious creation - the Backpacker. Her design caught the attention of the judges thanks to its ability to transform from a jacket into a backpack. Wong, who was also named HKDI outstanding student of 2016, says she was inspired by the philosophy and concept of a world traveller. “I incorporated aspects of the traveller into the design,” says Wong. “when we travel, we try to pack as light as possible, or we prefer multi-purpose outfits and try to be practical. I combined these elements” An exemplar of zero waste fashion, Wong created her piece using only a single piece of fabric joined by zippers. Made of waterproof nylon and cold-resistant wool, the Backpacker takes the shape of a map when unfolded. “The map is a reflection of a world traveller,” Wong explains. “When you fold it, you can never predict what shape it will form. It’s very much like a backpacker. When you’re lost you never panic, your journey is filled with surprises and never know what will happen.” The Backpacker is the epitome of comfort and practicality, Wong says that both are equally important. “It’s part of daily life,” she says. “We always judge if an outfit is stylish before wanting it try it on. But when we try it on we think about comfort.” While Wong is in her final months of completing a top-up degree programme at HKDI, she hopes one day to travel the world like the people that inspired her collection. “I really, really want to travel, but not to the cities. I want to go into jungles and explore.” Perhaps she’ll be wearing one of her designs wherever she goes.

Lam Kin-yan

Lam Kin-yan’s outstandingly creative work “Into the Flame” earned him the prestigious HKDI Young Design Talent Award. Inspired by the phenomenon of a moth attracted towards light, Lam has employed natural dye methods, learned during overseas exchanges, and relied on natural materials to create his winning collection. Lam based his pastel-coloured designs on the natural world. “I’m often by nature and I look for ideas when I go hiking,” says Lam. “That’s why I use natural dye; it relates to nature, colours are an important element in the design” Incredibly fluid and unstructured, the shape of Lam’s designs and his choice of materials were inspired by moths. “I use materials that are fuzzy to imitate the texture of a moth, mostly wool,” he explains. “For patterns, I also take inspiration from the moth’s wings. I hand-pick all the wool I use.” In his final year of a top-up degree in fashion design at HKDI, Lam believes fashion is essential in our daily lives. “it’s something we interact with everyday, fashion is a way to express ourselves. What I find interesting about is how differently every piece is made, how different people can look and feel wearing the same piece. I want my designs to encourage the wearer to reflect upon life. There are always new ways to look at fashion and that’s what I enjoy most about it.” 

Michelle Lin

Winning the Young Design Talent Special Mention Award for the second consecutive time Michelle Lin is now a full-time designer for a local fashion company. Lin’s collection “When I Was Young” is bursting with vibrant colours and recalls memories of youth. “I want this collection to bring joy and happiness to people,” says Lin. “It’s energetic and colourful. Hongkongers’ lives are filled with stress. I wanted to design a collection that makes them think of childhood and what made them happy when they were young.” Lin chose her palette from a children’s playground. “The colours are based on things like a kid’s slide or children’s toys,” Lin explains. “‘I tried numerous combinations and experimented to see which colours work best together. I developed many colour palettes and textures before arriving at the final design.” The collection is Lin’s first foray into menswear. “I like oversized outfits,” she says. “I don’t really like designs that are slim-fitted. There’s a belief that there’s not much cutting edge design or originality in menswear. It’s always shirts and suits for men. I wanted to break that mould and play around with something different.” The main difference between designing menswear and womenswear? “Attention to detail,” Lin claims. “There’s greater need for detail on pockets and linings with menswear. I think there’s more flexibility for womenswear.” As a designer, Lin aims to bring happiness through her clothes. “I want people to feel joy when they wear my clothes. I’ve always worked with bright colours, I’m not one to work with black, white and grey. Hongkongers dress quite boringly. I want to change that.” 

Wilson Choi Hung-shing

A Fashion Design graduate at HKDI, Wilson Choi won the CreateSmart Young Design Talent Special Award with unanimous commendation from the judges. His winning collection titled ⅔ features seamless designs and fabric with a special coating. What’s unique about the collection is that it is intended for wounded soldiers. The coat is tailored to support the body and helps the wearer to stand straight. Inspired by a series of photographs portraying veterans in a positive light, Choi found it commendable how, despite many veterans having lost limbs or sustained serious injuries, they continue live life to the fullest. “The way I saw it,” say Choi, “imperfection can actually be perfection.” A keen follower of the news, Choi believes that as a designer he can shed light on many social issues. “I want my designs to have a message. If I can make people think and reflect, then it would be a success”. Other issues that have caught his eye include the global refugee crisis - he plans to create clothes specially designed for child refugees, and up next, a commentary on school violence. Choi’s work was also well-received for his use of high-tech fabrics and innovative design features - sections of the coat can be inflated to secure and protect injuries. “It took a lot of trial and error,” says Choi. “the material was completely new to me, and learning to work with gas and air pressure was a long process.” His hard work certainly paid off. As Choi looks forward to a sponsored internship in London and New York this September, he hopes his future patrons will share his concern with social issues. “While the look of the designs are important, I hope people will understand what I’m trying to say and to understand the story I’m telling.”

Violet Tai Sze-man

The only non-fashion design graduate on the list, Violet Tai is a graduate of the Higher Diploma in Visual Communications. Violet received the Young Design Talent Special Mention Award for her music app that combines drawing and technology. Filled with colourful illustrations and interactive elements, making learning music fun, Tai’s app is not simply a game but is intended to enhance the learning experience for children. “I truly believe that a great educational experience can help kids to grow happier. I hope children can find happiness in their childhood. That is my inspiration.” While computers can never replace great teaching, Tai believes that practice is “key to reaching a high level in any skill.” Experimenting with putting technology, arts and fun together in one, the app-maker likes the ‘sparks’ the elements create. But what makes the app successful is the fun factor. “Learning is fun,” Tai claims. “I think the challenging point is how to create interesting ideas to get a kid’s attention. I’m inspired by people and their stories.” Tai says there’s still much for her to learn in game design. “’I’m not 100% sure that 
I will work in computer game design, but I hope the area of user experience design and educational design for kids will grow bigger in Hong Kong, I truly feel that it is meaningful work.”