Reflecting the growing importance of digital creation and the metaverse for fashion, Hong Kong creative hub PMQ on Thursday will unveil the first designs to emerge from FabriX, a program geared at bolstering the skills of the city’s rising talents.
They will be the centerpiece of an immersive physical installation at PMQ’s Hong Kong location from Thursday to Sept. 11 and disseminated online through its digital platforms and partnering social media stars.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, project director Shin Wong, a Taipei-born, New Zealand-raised curator who has headed the city’s “deTour” design festival since 2015, realized there was plenty of awareness but a lack of knowledge around digital fashion both in Hong Kong and across other Asian fashion hubs.
“[Designers] know about it, but they’re still quite unsure about how to launch it. And it was very hard for them to find investment [to develop in this field],” she told WWD ahead of the exhibition showcasing the first edition’s class of 12 designers.
Funded by Create Hong Kong, an agency dedicated to the development of the city’s creative agencies set up by the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the main objective of FabriX is to open a new revenue stream for fashion businesses by supporting them from the concept stage using digital creation tools to listing the resulting items on specialized marketplaces such as The Dematerialized.
Although numerous digital fashion projects have launched since the early days of the pandemic, “it was important not to jump on a bandwagon, [being] timely in delivering the experience [to the public] but also teaching designers how they can benefit from the entire process,” explained Declan Chan, a stylist and creative consultant who serves as the project’s fashion curator.
So the program also aims to connect the dots for the general public, for whom digital clothing — let alone the metaverse — remains a fuzzy concept.
Hence the addition of explainer sessions on the metaverse, the impact of digital fashion on the industry and how to respond to these new demands will be offered to the students, designers as well as the general public between Friday and Sunday.
For FabriX’s inaugural edition, an open call resulted in 60 proposals, which were whittled down to 12 by the project’s selection panel of creative, fashion and retail professionals.
Winning proposals were those that showcased “a vision on how to translate their style into a digital setting — creating something more magical,” Wong said. “It was important to see they could use [digital fashion] as an enhancement of their existing brand DNA,” rather than merely use the medium as a shortcut to add more styles in a lineup.
This year’s selection includes womenswear brands Cadylee, Celine Kwan and LoomLoop; menswear labels Demo, Harrison Wong, Kay Kwok, Shek Leung and Wilsonkaki; urbanwear specialist Nilmance Studio; gender-fluid designer Christian Stone; streetculture-inflected YMDH, and accessories label Jüü Jüü.
Another requirement was that designers have an already existing business, although an exception was made for recent graduate Lee, whose real-life audacious textile experiments and distorted silhouettes with a surrealist bent felt like they belonged in cyberspace, Chan said.
Adamant about ensuring a global footprint for the project, Wong and Chan selected a cadre of influencers and editors to bring these designs to life through social media, including London-based Susie Lau, Japanese journalist Yu Masui and Chengdu-based Xiao Yang, chosen for their long standing support of emerging design and futuristic leanings in their personal style.
In future, Shin envisions taking FabriX to other places, naming Tokyo as a potential destination for a showcase. But beyond providing a buzzy showcase for existing designers, Shin would like the project to spark deeper conversations with schools, in Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia, where she sees a real need to teach digital fashion tools to would-be designers.
“A lot of young designers want to create digital items but [the process] is quite costly for them, especially when unfamiliar with the tools,” Wong said. “Schools in Hong Kong are starting to teach them but it’s still quite [rudimentary] and it will take a few years before they’re up to speed,” she continued, stating that conversations were in progress to help accelerate the offering through FabriX.
After the physical exhibition, this year’s 12 capsule collections will released to digital fashion marketplace The Dematerialised on Sept. 15, before being rolled out to DressX and Asia-based NFT marketplace BlueArk in the following weeks.