Meet Sebastien Kwok: The Designer Bringing His Heteropia to the Runway. An intimate introduction to the fresh new designer as he talks with us about his ideologies, identity and individualism.

“Sebastien Kwok is a heterotopia, a reflection of society, a collective of thoughts, a laboratory with its output being materialised ideas through the language of fashion,” says designer Sebastien Kwok as he introduces himself to us, “It doesn’t settle, it flies through our heads, and somehow we feel connected through its signal as well as its understanding of the world. It is a genderless, consistently changing and ever-evolving form, poetical, philosophical, and sometimes problematic.”

On the 28th of February this year, the designer unveiled his debut Autumn Winter collection titled, ‘Grey Garden’, that features 60 looks inspired by gender and autonomy in the context of our current social climate. The collection is titled after a documentary of the same name by Albert and David Maysles that was initially released in 1975. Similarly, this documentary also ponders on the topic of individualism and identity. The 60 looks were presented down a minimal futuristic runway with bright blue lights shining down on the models walking down. The collection was futuristic with all the bold cutouts and blends of metallic textures across looks, but with clean cut well-tailored, structured pieces, some looks of the collection definitely feature potential timeless pieces. Instead of sticking with a limited palette, Kwok went through a wide range of colours throughout this collection but tastefully doing so, with the selection looking contemporary instead of garish.

Overall, the collection was an impressive debut for the new designer, but with his prior experiences, it’s no shocker that the collection didn’t seem like his first one. It seems like the designer is a natural in all things artistic, he shares with us,  “I have always been interested in the art and creative field, but I wasn’t quite fixated on fashion until I was 12. Painting and creating objects have always been in my blood since I was a child. My interest started shifting from landscapes and still life painting to drawing shapes and forms around the human body. Since fashion is about the study of movement around the body, I started gravitating toward fashion design.”

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Before launching the namesake brand, Kwok was a fashion student, studying in the prestigious University of the Arts London and started his career by working for names like Alexander McQueen and Preen by Thornton Bregazzi. With an interest in art, Kwok also took the extra step to work in art consultancies to further immerse himself and expand his knowledge in art. All these skills and knowledge gained have taught Kwok how to communicate towards an audience through his work, which is where his true motive as an artist lies, “I guess part of the reason why I like fashion and design it’s that I am very fond of different ways of communicating with each other. Expressing ourselves in fashion is one of the most direct ways of communicating our ideas, beliefs and values through what we are wearing.”

“I guess the struggle is about whether people will understand the work I am doing, because I chose to do a story that isn’t based on a linear line of inspiration, which could provide the audience with mixed signals. To some, it might not be immediately understandable,” the designer shares.Communication and exploration are values that Kwok takes into his creative process, he explains to us that before starting a new collection he tends to read as much as he could on his topics of interests, which usually relates to gender studies, contemporary art, and whatever else is of his interest. After his research, he starts to fantasise a heterotopia in which his character lives in along with how this character behaves, and he then works his way to develop and experiment from that character’s standpoint. 

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Another ideology that Kwok holds close to his brand’s core is based of a quote by Swiss artist, Pipilottie Rist, “I don’t think an artist have bigger fantasy than a normal person, but we have more time and concentration to bring inner world and emotion out and materialise them. My goal is that you go in and you are not anymore alone.” He shares that the quote connected to him on  a deep level, I think I have always been a bit offbeat since I was a kid. Somehow I realised we all just want to be part of something as human beings. The more I grow up, I come to terms that you don’t need to subscribe yourself to a group or be cool or be somebody. It is fine exactly how you are.”

In the future, Kwok dreams of his brand being more than just a clothing line and instead a platform where people can come together and collaborate on creative innovations in an uplifting environment. “In the long run, the well-being of younger creatives is also core to my concern. I would love to contribute more to that. I hope that through understanding their situation and needs, we can create a more encouraging and supportive environment for them,” he tells us as he talks about how he wants to make an impact in the bigger scheme of things, “I would love to have a lot more multimedia projects to communicate my ideas more vividly. (Text Vanya Harapan)