In this issue of ASIAN VOICE, we feature DEMO, a brand that pulls its inspirations from countless at forms from various eras, cultures, figures, and traditions. How does a designer morph a inspiration into one’s own creation? Let’s find out.
Nana : Can you give our readers an introduction to the brand, DEMO?
DEREK : Menswear has a legacy—DEMO boldly writes a new chapter inspired by its rich heritage. Classical elements are contrasted with contemporary styling to subvert stereotypes, champion gender fluidity and create DEMO’s signature: soft masculinity. Every DEMO design offers more than meets the eye and defies expectations with beauty, eloquence and resolve. Traditional silhouettes and patterns are deconstructed so wearers can transform themselves in designs that link modern life and classic literature with influences from nature and poetry. We use traditional materials in refreshing new ways, designs include handmade embellishments and embroidery, which come together in a symphony of tailoring, creative inspiration and self-expression.
Nana : Why did you initially create the brand?
DEREK : I was participated in the Hong Kong Young Designer Contest in 2012. After that, I received sponsorship to create my first brand collection, at that moment, I don’t have a big interest to start my own brand. I simply wanted to grab this chance to create my design with sponsorship. As a fresh graduate at that moment, it is not a small money! When my first and second collection released, some buyers and customers have approached me to place order. Then DEMO gradually became a brand til now.
Nana : What has influenced the creation of the brand and the pieces designed for your brand?
DEREK : These are some things that have inspired me to create demo:
Gender issue in history: 女形in kabuki, 粵劇(女扮男)，京劇(男扮女)，Castrato 閹伶，若眾（男扮女)
Art : Impressionism(something about personal feeling and emotion-driven), Greek myth,
Think: philosophy, Discussion (like discussion of the topic I asked which can help you think more)
Movie: Call me by your name, Brideshead revisited, Death in Venice, Watercolour, Danish girls, 霸王別姬
Song: Music opera, soprano, Canto opera (帝女花).
I try to mention some of the topics and issues which inspired me in DEMO. You could easily tell these things are quite related to gender. I always like to challenge and push the boundary of the definition of man and woman. It has been a very long year to define and establish feminism. Of course throughout different years and decade, the definition of feminism has changed quite a lot, but how about man? Have you heard about masculine-ism? The norm still has a lot of stereotype of how man should be, and that’s the reason why every season I want to find some topic to investigate and develop the Collection.
Nana : What is your impression of the current fashion in Hong Kong and what do you think has influenced it?
DEREK : I am not sure whether I can well-presented as an Asian designer but I am definitely a Hong Kong designer and hk gives me lots of opportunity and advantages to develop my brand. For example hk is such a small city compare to US or Uk or France, it is easier for us to access different resources and connection. It is easier for us to gain exposure in Hong Kong. At the same time hk is a place that the whole word is looking at. If you are doing good, I am sure people will pay attention to your work easily. I will say the hybrid culture of Hong Kong has shaped my aesthetic and style. It is very easy to get information, resource, architecture and history about eastern and western in Hong Kong. Growing up and immersing in this hybrid culture, it has subconsciously affected my idea development and thought when I design.
Nana : What do you value most when selecting a theme for your collection?
DEREK : Co-relation of the collection. When I design, I always ask myself whether this item is related to the theme, if it is related to the story, how does it tell the story, what is the function of this item to the collection, how can this item up value the customer and make them look good.
Nana : In what way do use social media to deliver your designs?
DEREK : As a marketing purpose for sure. It’s good to have so many social media nowadays to help on the branding. It is a lot easier to tell your brand story, collection story , aesthetic, message with instagram. This not only can bring the message I wanna raise but also add value on my design.
Nana : Can you tell us about some of the experiences you have had building the brand?
DEREK : I think most designers or brand faces more or less the same challenge that how to strike the balance between creativity and commercialism. It is always good to have a person/partner who know the brand well and at the same time have a different prospective to see your brand development so your direction won’t fall into too creative or too commercial.
Nana : Is it possible to let readers know a little about your next collection? If so, what has inspired the theme and the pieces in them?
DEREK : There is always some connection between collection. I was studying the 70-80’s canto pop culture in SS21, then I further investigated what influence the canto-pop culture, so I have 80’s Japanese superstar Kenji Sawada in SS22. In FW22/23, I will further investigate anything influence or related to kenji sawada or 70-80’s.
Nana : Do you have any advice for our readers who are seeking to find a way to build a unique brand like “DEMO”?
DEREK : I think if we are establishing a brand, we must face lots of problems and difficulties: e.g. business plan, how to define the direction of our design, how to differentiate the brand from others ,etc. Although there are many problems, what you have to do is to sit down and think clearly where you wanna go and what you wanna do. If you do so, I don’t think any problems will hinder your development.
Advice: Sit down, do a meditation and clear your mind to think what you wanna do, why you wanna do, how to do.
I think most designers or brands face more or less the same challenge to strike the balance between creativity and commercialism.derek of demo