Having started her professional journey as a graphic designer, Cynthia Mak then attended Central Saint Martins in London to study fashion. In 2014, she has decided to launch her eponymous label and then designed her very first collection for spring-summer 2015. Mixing graphic lines, bold prints and geometrical shapes, Cynthia Mak’s collection caught our attention. She nicely gave us some time to answer our questions.
Moderneast: Before starting your studies at Central Saint Martins in Fashion, you were a graphic designer. Were you already interested in fashion before then? Have you got any idea of how is it to study fashion in Hong Kong?
Cynthia Mak: Honestly, I didn’t really know much about fashion before CSM. I did a few short courses in fashion illustration and design in HK but they were very different. More technical and less creative.
I never studied fashion courses in any universities in HK, so I don’t really know much about admissions. There is only one formal university that has fashion design courses, but there are other vocational education schools that do offer fashion courses which have a good reputation locally.
ME: Before launching your own label, you have been working in several luxury brands and retailers for few years. Why didn’t you decide to launch your label directly after graduation?
CM: I think it’s a really good idea to work within the industry after graduation first, rather than to rush straight into building your own label. From just a few years experience, it gives you an idea about the whole fashion business cycle, a better understanding of the market, and it allows you to meet more people. These kind of things, you weren’t really taught at school. Unless you have a good consultant when you first start, I think it’s good to get some experience first.
ME: You have both lived and worked in London and Hong Kong. Would you say the vision people have of fashion differs between these 2 different parts of the world, namely Europe and East Asia?
CM: Yes, I think the vision in Asia and Europe are quite different. Most people in HK are fairly brand oriented. They love the big names and are more willing to spend on those brands. This makes it hard for local HK brands to gain popularity as major HK retailers will not stock them since demand is low.
But, slowly, we are starting to see some changes. Some companies are now trying to support and give more awareness to local designers.
Having said that, there are other parts of Asia such as Seoul which is very different from HK. The government there gives a lot of support to new fashion designers. Consequently, I feel there is a lot of attention on Korean brands right now.
ME: You are Hong Kong-born and -based, would you say this Asian background inspires you for your first collection?
CM: I won’t say my asian background really inspired my first collection. But there is always an advantage to being based in HK, you can be closer to the factory and the cost of setup is lower than Europe.
ME: What do you think about the representation of Asian fashion here in Europe? Do you think there is a particular lack of information?
CM: I feel like there are more and more Asian brands that are showing in Europe however, it will be great if there are more channels for Asian designers to introduce their work in the European market.
ME: It is easy to see that your background in graphic design inspires your first collection. It results with minimalist and clean shapes. Would you say this minimalist trend is becoming mainstream over there in Hong Kong? How would you describe fashion in Hong Kong?
CM: There is always a group of people looking for minimalism. I want my brand to be eye-catching, but at the same time have very easy to wear pieces. I love dramatic and theatrical styles as well, but in the end, it is a business so it needs to be accessible too.
People in HK have quite a mixed style. It really depends on the area you go to. Previously, Japanese brands and style had a big influence on HK people, now there is a bigger mix of American and European.
ME: Finally, is there any advice you would like to give to other emerging Asian fashion designers?
CM: Really spend more time planning before starting your own label. You might be a talented designer, but at the end it is a business. Therefore it’s important to plan and do your research before launching anything.
Also you must have an idea of your target market. If you looking to expand outside Asia, it is good to look into Paris trade-shows or showrooms to present your work. It might be a bigger investment, but you will receive a global recognition and hopefully bringing in more business.
Thank you again to Cynthia for her time and thoughtful words on her work and more globally on fashion.
See the full collection on her website