HK fashion label fiXXed on their Paris Fashion Week debut and sustainable work model

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Arthur Tam talks to fashion designers and partners Fiona Lau and Kain Picken of ffiXXed about their debut at Paris Fashion Week and their sustainable work model

Hot off their runway debut at Paris Fashion Week, Hong Kong fashion designers (and partners) Fiona Lau and Kain Picken are quickly gaining traction on a global scale. They’re releasing a capsule collection with Lane Crawford, preparing for Shanghai Fashion Week later this month, presenting at the travelling fashion exhibition The Future of Fashion is Now (other presenters include industry titans like Viktor & Rolf, Craig Green and Maison Margiela), and all the while fulfilling orders to five dozen or so stockists around the world for their label Ffixxed. They’ve got a lot going on and the media has been taking note, too – Forbes, CNN, SCMP, Vogue (and of course yours truly) have been billing them as an up-and-coming fashion force to be reckoned with.

It’s been almost three years since we last interviewed the duo. At that time, they had been recognised by the prestigious International Woolmark Prize Awards, winning the Asian region award for their innovative use of wool in their unisex collection. Since then, the brand has grown in leaps and bounds, and now encompasses both a womenswear and a menswear collection that presents a tasteful, focused narrative. Each collection is ostensibly more bold than the last. It’s readily apparent that new creative techniques and elements are used to keep the brand fresh while the duo maintains a distinct vision based on a minimalistic aesthetic punctuated by pan-Asian (especially Japanese) cuts and sillohuettes and woven textures. These translate into street savvy, nature friendly, comfy and, most importantly, wearable clothing. Think homebody chic, refined relaxation, sartorial zen. After all, “Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury,” says Coco Chanel.

Last November, the pair also nabbed the Yoox Esthetica Sustainability Award, which ‘honours Asian designers who are committed to social and environmental responsibility without compromising their signature designs’, Ffixxed was practically a shoe-in for the award, with collections that blend seamlessly with natural surroundings – this might have something to do with the couple choosing to live in a multi-functional studio in Shenzhen’s Wutong Mountains – but that’s not the only thing that set them apart. “I think the panel was looking at a whole range of different approaches,” says Picken. “They weren’t just stuck on the idea of materials having to use sustainable organic cotton. I guess the reason they selected us is more to do with our working model. We work with tightly controlled in-house production without excess stock or fabric consumption. They looked at all the factors of the way our company is run and also the ethical aspect in that we have good working conditions and provide fair salaries and everything like that. We aren’t just conscious of sustainability – we are also a sustainable business.”

For the current A/W 16/17 collection Lau and Picken are using luxe, leftover fabrics from previous collections to create a high-end, rag rug material through digital weaving. Cut and sewn into clothing, the fabric creates unique textures and patterns that are visually soothing while remaining compelling. Buyers at Paris Fashion Week agreed.

“The feedback was really good,” says Lau. “As a small brand we’re doing everything from top to bottom, but this time around we had people specifically helping us put the show together and they are amazing at their jobs. That was the best show we’ve done so far and it created a buzz not just with buyers, but with the public. We’ve changed over the years. We used to only think about designing for showrooms, but now we are much more aware of the importance of runway shows. I hope the Fashion Farm Foundation (FFF) will bring us [to Paris] again.”

The FFF is a Hong Kong-based NGO that formed in October 2012 with one goal in mind: to nurture, develop and promote local fashion designers by providing them with exposure, funding and, most importantly, workspace. Think of it as Hong Kong’s take on the British Fashion Council. Ffixxed’s involvement with the FFF could be a giant leap for the local industry – at a time when Hong Kong’s creatives are generally feeling overlooked, it’s certainly promising to see that the FFF’s programmes have now expanded to providing Hong Kong designers access to an international platform as highly regarded as Paris Fashion Week.

Lau, however, already senses a shift. “Things are changing a bit. You see a lot of interest from buyers around the world and from China interested in Chinese and Hong Kong designers. If you check out the LVMH Prize, you’ll notice a growing amount of Chinese representation – last year Hong Kong had Jourden as a representative. I think educated consumers, who are looking for something less obvious and more unique, look to China. And on the flip side, Chinese and Hong Kong designers, who go to the top design schools in New York and London, are coming back to Asia to tap into the manufacturing potential and they are working hard to build and promote their brands, which in turn also stirs interest.”

Bigger local names are also actively supporting homegrown talent – Lane Crawford sent a call out last year for designers they could collaborate with for an exclusive capsule collection. Ffixxed was chosen to develop a menswear collection. “It’s great for the retailers because they have something that nobody else has and it also gives us the opportunity to do something off-season,” says Pickens of the recently dropped collaboration.

The couple is taking full advantage of the opportunities ahead of them and have a firm mindset about how they are going to grow their brand. “It’s about maintaining steady work and growing in a really organic and sustainable way,” says Picken. Spoken like a designer with real integrity.

Ffixxed Studios available at Lane Crawford, 3/F, IFC mall, 8 Finance St, Central, 2118 3388; ffixxed.com.

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