The Woolmark Prize recently announced its Asian nominees in Hong Kong at The Fringe Club on May 7th, including two Hong Kong-based designers, PLOTZ and ffiXXed. At the nomination ceremony, we had the opportunity to sit down with PLOTZ designer Singchin Lo to learn more about his design aesthetic, initial ideas on his approach to his upcoming Woolmark Prize collection and his thoughts about the Hong Kong fashion scene. Singchin Lo is a quintessential Hong Kong boy; he was born here, he grew up here and he studied fashion design here at the Polytechnic University. Having initially begun his studies as an engineering major, Singchin Lo is very interested in the technical properties of fabrics and textures, often aiming to create new and original textiles from plain fabrics sourced in China and Hong Kong. Hallmarks of his design include detailed patchwork and silhouette contouring techniques, making his designs incredibly female-friendly.
ES: How is your collection received in Paris at Tranoi Louvre each season?
PLOTZ: Actually, it's the third time I've been to Tranoi, before that I went to Atmosphere twice and also Rendez-Vouz three times, but now they're closed already. I've been showing in Paris for almost 10 seasons. At the beginning, the collection was less commercial. The label is called "PLOTZ" which means something that creates excitement. At first, I just wanted to do a small collection in a funky style, in Hong Kong. That's how I started. In the beginning, I did anything I wanted to do, I didn't focus on any commercial areas. Then, because the first season I went to the Paris trade shows, I didn't get many orders, so I started to learn how to balance my design and the market. Mostly, people think my work is original with a lot of craftsmanship.
ES: One of the things I've read about you a lot is that you're very conscious of the female body and working the clothes around the female form. Tell me about that. What kinds of materials or shapes do you think look best on a woman?
PLOTZ: Actually, what I start with is always from the fabric. I like texture. Each season, I like to redefine fabric. I always think that if I can design some new fabric, then the design will be original. It's about the texture or some kind of new interesting feeling of the material. After I have designed some interesting texture, I will try to think, "Which part should I put this on the body?" For example, [for one of my designs], the original fabric was made from circular patterns of lace, but then I tried to play with it with some pleating. I do a lot of inverted pleats; inside the pleats, I put a stud, so when you move, the pleat expands and you see the studs. We have to pleat, then sew and put every stud on by hand. This is how I work with my designs; I love texture. I love plain fabrics, then I play with it and I make some original fabric. Then the design can be original.
ES: A lot of work goes into your pieces; how to do you deal with expensive costs?
PLOTZ: Actually, I think it's not that expensive, not like Europe. We have the benefit of China; skillful, experienced workers who are not as expensive. The sample is done in our studio in Hong Kong and then we give the mock-up to the factory to finish the sample for us. Factories in China are all about money. Money can solve your problems! They don't know how to design; they just think, if the design is too complicated, they always deny to help you to produce the sample, so if you talk about money, they say, "Okay, I can do it for you!" But, actually, it's good, because we have a stable relationship with the factories and we hire their pattern-makers and sewers for our own production, so they like to help us to do small quantities and complicated designs for us.
ES: Now that you've been nominated for the Woolmark Prize, what's the next step for you?
PLOTZ: My ideas always changing! After watching the movie [about last year's finalists], my ideas have changed; they seem not enough! I have to revise, improve and add some more ideas.
ES: What are you thinking about right now, for your Woolmark collection?
PLOTZ: I want to stay true to myself and try to express myself through the use of the wool to make some designs that I like. I think it's all about texture. I hope I can make some interesting texture. With the contest, one of the requirements is that it has to have commercial value, so it can't be too creative. I have to think about the production side, as well. Balance.
ES: Your work is very creative; do you think that one of your biggest challenges will be finding that balance between creativity and commercial value?
PLOTZ: Always. Nowadays, fashion is too fast. Although you can do some commercial clothing, it won't be for sure that you can sell, because H&M, Zara, Topshop, they are selling very trendy, cheap clothing. It's difficult to design commercial and original clothing.
ES: I understand that you designed a bag that was very popular in Hong Kong. The fringe bag. Tell me about that bag.
PLOTZ: How do you know about that bag! Yes, the fringe bag. I love texture and I was thinking, "Why can't thread be fabric?" So I used threads to create a fabric. That's where I started. For that bag, I wanted more people to be able to use it. I think it is a bit crazy for people if they work a lot of fabric like that on their body, but for accessories, like bags, they can be more bold and unusual. I thought a bag is the best item for me to try this interesting fabric. Actually, I just wanted that bag to get noticed by people so they would know our label so, for that bag, we didn't earn a lot. The price is very reasonable for a lot of work. That bag was very trendy, there were lots of colours you could choose, like neon colours. Trendy colours. It's a "calculated design"! That's why a lot of people could use it. People thought it was interesting and started to know our label more. When it started to get more and more popular, I started to become afraid that people would copy our design, so we haven't continued to include this bag design in our next season.
ES: How do you think that your designs are different and unique to the rest of the Asian nominees?
PLOTZ: I don't know, because I don't try to be different to others. I just try to be myself. I only know about one of the other [nominees] called Sibling. It's from London. I know that label, the rest of them I don't know! And I know [fellow Woolmark Prize nominees from Hong Kong] ffiXXed.
ES: Working in Hong Kong as a designer, do you think that the environment is supportive?
PLOTZ: Not really. I think Hong Kong fashion designers are not admired by the Hong Kong people; maybe they will think China designers or Thai designers are good, but not local designers, because -- I don't know why! Maybe Hong Kong is too trendy and commercial. I don't know why. They'd even buy a Thai fashion designer label rather than a Hong Kong fashion designer label. To me, it's difficult, because I studied here. I am not from London's Saint Martin's. I'm just a Hong Kong boy and I don't have the value for people to look into here. That's why I try to use my collections to speak for myself. My clothes sometimes are not really wearable, because I want to do something that is really individual and original; Hong Kong fashion, in Hong Kong.
ES: Have you used a lot of wool in the past at PLOTZ?
PLOTZ: Not really, because I source in Hong Kong and China and here wool is a very quality and luxury fabric. I don't have much to choose from. And, actually, our target audience is mainly from the Middle East and in Hong Kong or other Asian countries, so the weather is not very cold and I can't use a lot of wool for my colletions. The main focus of our label is not wool.
ES: Will that be challenging for you, to use more of this wool for the Woolmark collection?
PLOTZ: Yes. I have to be like a student and go to the bookshop to research how wool is produced, how it can be used, the properties of wool, felting, merino wool, knitting, I have to study all of this so that I can get more ideas about how to use it.
See more from PLOTZ here.
See more from the Woolmark Prize here.