Thursday, February 07, 2013

Bowie Wong speaking Vintage,the Future and Couture..

Last week I was quite lucky. I had the chance to meet the funny and smart Australian fashion designer Bowie Wong for tea and a chat, and got to ask the man that dresses stars like Kylie Minogue some of my many questions about Haute Couture...

Actually, I was a stage designer before I became a costume designer, and hold both degrees. This is quite complex, as the stage designer for his work has to consider the situation, the lighting, the furniture. And the costume designer has to think about the character, his personality and the time period.
During my costume design studies they taught me some old techniques that most fashion schools focusing on modern world fashion don't teach today: like the boning of a corset or working with horse hair, to recreate the look of a specific era
I am very lucky and grateful to have received this kind of training.
Today, this knowledge influences my design  and my collections. The effects you can produce in such a way look elaborate, amazing. Like old pieces in a modern world.

Being a fashion designer today is different than being a costume designer who, as part of his research has to read the novel or the play, and who has to understand the specific character, whose look he has to create.
Yet, I liked this pattern. So when designing today, I create a story for my collection. An aura, like 'The Lady from the Lake' for example, or the 'Paper Cranes'. I have to have a story first.

Recently people tell me -other than I tell myself- that my style is for the 'Spring Chicken' (laughs). For ladies, that just start to bloom and are in the exciting transition from girl to woman..

Very simple: Keep it chic. No cliches. People pay a lot of money for couture pieces. As a couture designer, you can't produce something trashy. In my collection, people can see it is worth every dollar. Everything is hand cut, hand sown, hand beaded. The time that goes into each piece, since everything is done by hand. I am talking about the chic of exceptional craftsmanship and amazing quality.  That is what I emphasise on.

It has to be an intense amount of time, a fresh design with a twist, extensive handwork. As a couture designer you can't be selfish, but have to always put the customer first. In Pret à Porter you place your collection in the right magazine, in the right store, so the right customer will find it.
Couture is different. You design for a specific person, for her, or him. Um, actually not him. Men don't spend that kind of money! (laughs)

I do understand that couture to a lot of people is kept for a special occasion only. Women might think 'Oh, when could I wear that, I am no celebrity, I don't have a red carpet event..'. And we do have a specific target group. We design for an elite, for a really special occasion like a wedding, an anniversary, a birthday.
A couture dress is always part of the history, part of the memory. It's not a dress you just picked up on the way. It always is a special memory for the buyer, and a special memory for me, the designer as well. This is what I love about it.

Everyone is different. You can not have everyone wearing couture. You cant have everyone wearing casual wear, either. It's all about diversity. You have lavender and roses. Hyacinths and lilies. Couture is just a different type of fashion. I am happy for those big brands that produce fast fashion. But on the other hand, I don't think couture is going to die. There will always be a place for couture. They are not at competition, and therefore no threat to each other. 
And if the high street copies you: I think of it not as a negative, but a positive. I take it as a compliment. If you weren't good, they wouldn't bother. 
The big trend today is that everyone buys vintage. But in the future, there will be no more vintage left, since the majority of garments produced today is casual wear. So we will run out of collectible pieces. The couture created today will be the future vintage.
Well, I am talking in about 40 years time, when you go to a vintage shop with your niece and she will say (sitting up, eyes rolling): 'Melissa, I found this amazing ZARA VINTAGE!!!'  I mean, what the hell. So I would say couture is the future vintage. And sometimes I tell other designers not to give up, because we are creating the future tradition. 

I want to discover the French market. This is absolutely not about an ego, self driven motivation. I would have no reason to push myself out of my Australian comfort zone. To me it is about respecting my friends and my family, and their believe in me. They firmly believe I can do it. I want my mom to come to Paris, sit in the front row, watch my show and be proud.
Very, very heavily. It made me very international. To cut it short, I was born in Hong Kong, raised in Japan, studied in Canada, traveled around the world for a musical theater for 3 years, and now live in Australia since 17 years. But still, I travel about 180 days pear year all around the globe.
And not only to glamour destinations like London- Paris- New York, but especially to places more spiritual, for example Angkor Wat, or to Africa. This made me very multi cultural and gives me a lot of energy to design!

PS: To find out more about Bowie and get all his latest news, check his Website at !

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