An Evolution Called Fashion
Hong Kong design duo IDISM are inspired by deep human desires
Co-founded by Cyrus Wong and Julio Ng in 2016, the Hong Kong brand IDISM has become a front runner on the local fashion scene and even captured international attention. The womenswear label was selected by Vogue Talents in 2017 and presented as one of the Elite Designers in the opening gala show of this year’s Centrestage.
Coined from the psychoanalytical term ‘id’, the brand name reflects the designer’s pursuit of the deepest aspects of human nature through their designs.
“‘Id’ is like the basic human desire and need. When you’re a newborn and you want food, you just cry out. You don’t care where the food comes from, or how you interrupt people. It’s like the deepest thing in your desire. That’s how we came up with the word ‘id’, and then transformed it into IDISM. We are carrying on this spirit and proceeding further into a movement,” explains Julio Ng.
Though just five seasons old, IDISM has already become one of Asia’s most celebrated fashion brands. Yet the design duo already feels they need to slow down a bit.
“In a sense, it’s been growing too fast, and it’s against our nature - we prefer to take things slowly,” Ng notes.
“To do a healthy business requires a lot of self-reflection and building strong foundations. We feel that Hong Kong clients don’t understand our core message 100 percent, and we want to have this show and do all these interviews to demonstrate what we really are.
“Our previous four seasons were shown in Paris, but this time we wanted to go back to where we’re from, let our message be heard and our collection sensed.”
The SS19 collection which debuted at Centrestage was inspired by the concept of ‘the environment’, in literary classics and modern art.
“In The Little Prince, when the little prince asks the pilot to draw him a sheep, the pilot draws a box, saying the sheep he wants is inside the box. The box creates an environment for the little prince to imagine what is inside. That leads us to James Turrell...” says Cyrus Wong.
Ng goes on to explain: “James Turrell is an artist famous for creating an environment for the viewer to observe and sense within. A lot of his work relates to visual illusions, as well as self-awareness within light installations. So, it inspired us to think about a collection that involves the senses of humans, like imagination, vision, hearing, and touch.”
The collection uses many technical fabrics, which create sound when the wearer moves around.
“Even if you are blind, you will be able to hear a person walking past. We have a secret message written in braille on the fabric, ‘I was blind, but now I see’, a verse from Amazing Grace. Even when blind people touch our garment, they will still get something out of it. They can feel the essence of our collection,” explains Ng.
The pair also attempt to combine fashion with lifestyle and health elements.
“In the market, you don’t see many women’s activewear or sports gear with an elegant touch, and you don’t see synthetic and breathable fabrics in dresses,” Ng notes. “Nowadays you have women going to yoga class or gym during lunchtime or straight from work. They are who we are designing for: women who want to look healthy, and by looking healthy, they look beautiful in every way. We want to combine lifestyle and work together.”
A central element of the brand is ‘transformation’, which the pair say originates from the Lion Rock Spirit of Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong has transformed from a small fishing village to a financial centre. Through this process, the Lion Rock Spirit unifies the society to get through tough periods. In our garments, every piece represents that spirit,” Ng remarks. “The transformation is embodied in the interchangeability of the garments, which automatically gives you the element of surprise. A plain garment can easily transform into a more drapey piece.”
Another approach to extend the life of garments is by sourcing more durable textiles, like curtain fabric.
“Curtain cloth usually has a warranty of five to ten years. So, if a jacket is damaged, we can send it back to the manufacturer to fix it,” says Wong.
As for the next step, the duo believes that the upbeat economic outlook in China is creating good conditions for the fashion industry.
Ng concludes: “Fashion is about the experience, it’s about how you have the luxury to try, to wear the garment, to touch it and smell it. Now in China, people are spending more money in the luxury business and experience.
“The fashion industry is indeed growing at a fast pace, faster than anything we’ve ever seen, but I see China as at the very beginning of this evolution called fashion. Because there are still so many second-tier and third-tier cities yet to become involved.
“People there are dying for more fashion information and have the spending power. By wearing the actual garments, it naturally educates you and evolves how you feel about luxury.”
GETTING OUT OF THE BUBBLE
Macau’s developing fashion industry rose to prominence at Centrestage 2018 in Hong Kong
Hong Kong fashion designer Kevin Ho graduated from the London College of Fashion, majoring in womenswear. In 2015, the young designer won in the Party & Evening Wear Category of the Hong Kong Young Fashion Designers’ Contest (YDC) for his debut collection The Crossing.
Environmental NGO Redress hosted the world’s largest sustainable fashion design competition – the Redress Design Award – at Centrestage 2018 in Hong Kong in September, with 11 emerging fashion designers from around the world putting their work on the runway, showing off high-end fashion with minimal textile waste.