“Gemma Hoi Studio” aka fashion with a flavoring of rawness, honesty and edge. The latest collection by this Macau-born designer was entitled “Time Traveller 1940s”, inspired by the women factory workers’ uniforms of the time. It was an era when war was devastating the world and women were taking up men’s tasks to support the survival of their families and nations. The uniform signified strength, equality and courage, a holy trinity Hoi believes is key to begin one’s discovery of personal confidence.
With an expanding number of Chinese designers — give or take 37, up by almost a dozen in comparison to the number of 26 in September 2017 — presenting their collections on international Fashion Week stages this year, 2018 is already proving a year of eye-catching growth and maturing for China’s fashion industry. A fair few among these collections have pointed out the prodigious promise and potential in terms of both design and marketing power, including that of NYFW Nolcha Shows’ Gemma Hoi on February 16, 2018. Hoi is a Macau-born designer that wants to bring haute couture into streetwear and cares truly about women’s comfort and confidence when designing her opus.
The Hoi products pageanting down the Nolcha catwalk each demonstrated some serious pièce de résistance power, channeling that typical NYC variety and color which in turn triggers challenge and transformation within the creative personalities floating around the city. With Shanghai Fashion Week (March 28 to April 3, 2018) firmly in sight, China is one step closer towards the creation of its very own Fashion Capital. Our featured designer too shall partake in the razzledazzle of The Pearl of The Orient and thus we at Temper Magazine deemed it high time to for high streetstyled Hoi tea.
“Fashion is changing China dramatically because of how much it wears down conservative expectations and rules. I think the younger generations of China still have a learning curve or two to go because having so much versatility and creativity at your disposal is something which has long been restricted, or compressed, in China.” Hoi on social game changing
Temper: What are the “key differences” between your collabs taking place in Macau, Hong Kong and New York?
Hoi: I truly believe it is the people who take part in my collaborations that inspire me, because the clashing of different opinions always sparks incredible ideas. I think the key differences between Macau and New York, in terms of collaborating, are the differences in social expectations. In Macau, the aim of a collaboration wants to result in something that is practical and marketable, whereas New York collabs are always about bringing forth edginess and attitude to the definition of a chosen subject. Macau has always been quite quiet on expressing its fashionable opinions, a fact which hasn’t changed too much in recent years — in my opinion.
Temper: Do you feel fashion is helping the world view China as a creative and appealing society?
Hoi: I don’t think fashion opens the world up “to” China because China is always involved. I think that which fashion does bring to China, is a flood of inspiration and variation. Chinese people are more willing and excited to express their individuality through fashion and that adds a lot of colorful characteristics to people’s daily lives. I also think fashion is changing many Chinese stereotypes given people are beginning to explore more ways to present themselves to the outside world.
Temper: How do you feel about the emergence of fashion in China and its influence on the world?
Hoi: Fashion is changing China dramatically because of how much it wears down conservative expectations and rules. It also has brought much economic opportunity to China and in response, the Chinese people are spending money in amounts that are changing global tidal waves. It is an exciting time because nowadays every country is paying attention to China, more than they ever have. The “Made in China” tag is going to mean something very different very soon.
“Fashion has always been about bringing forth individuality and personality, but this attitude doesn’t seem to agree with Chinese society — a society which by nature/culture puts many social expectations on its people.” Hoi on fashion vs. human nature and culture
Temper: How do people relate to fashion based on a sense of newness, independence and becoming/ being unique?
Hoi: The Chinese people (the post-80s and -90s) relate to fashion in a rather timid sort of way. Fashion has always been about bring forth individuality and personality, but such an attitude doesn’t seem to agree with Chinese society, a society which puts many social expectations on its people. The post-80s and -90s group really represents the first Chinese generation free to communicate (and benefit from) international conversations, so fashion is like a new taboo that has been broken through, a new niche for them to explore. This is the first generation of China in a long time that is showing interest in global fashion, as well as the first generation taking on the responsibility of catching up on international fashion history.
I think with Hong Kong and Macau, people here are a bit more comfortable with Western influences because these regions have histories that are very involved with international conflicts. However, people in modern day Hong Kong and Macau are seeking new perspectives because back in the day, they could lean towards the West, but as China’s power is on the rise, they have to judge for themselves if the time has now come to lean more towards the East.
I personally believe that fashion is a great answer as it can discuss politics without really immersing itself in politics. I think the people of Hong Kong and Macau need to find their balance between East and West and truly develop a strong regional personality — more so now than ever. This can start by individuals embracing both cultures’ aesthetics and designs and involving these cultural discussions in their daily lives and routines.
“Personally, I think that Eastern designs pay more attention to the embellishment and construction of a ‘perfect woman’ within a society. Western designs, then, tend to focus more on bringing the most out of every ‘individual woman,’ granting her more personality and identity.” Hoi on the role fashion in female empowerment
Temper: The younger Chinese generations are branching out in different fields of creativity. Nevertheless… Do you think they have what it takes?
Hoi: I think the younger generations of Chinese are still learning. Having so much versatility and creativity at your disposal is something that was long restricted, or compressed, in China. However, it is because of this vibrant energy of the younger generations that China is finally evolving from a country known for cheap labor and stereotypes into an economic giant that is innovating many industries across the globe. I think many from the younger generations are dreaming bigger than their parents ever dared and those that have come before them should only encourage such passion. Vision will become clearer once they truly know that they are supported. Focus will become better once they know their dreams are realizable.
Being born and raised in Macau, the island’s culturally ambiguous region has made me more absorbent and open to different designs, even if they contain concepts that contradict one another.
Temper: Personal heritage X NYC = Unbridled Inspiration
Hoi: I was born and raised in Macau, China, a peaceful island that contains both Western and Eastern influences due to its complicated history. Such a culturally ambiguous region made me more absorbent and open to different designs, even if they do possess concepts that contradict one another. Personally, I think that Eastern designs pay more attention to the embellishment and construction of a “perfect woman” within a society. Western designs, on the other hand, tend to focus more on bringing the most out of every “individual woman”, granting her personality and identity.
New York City has inspired me in understanding how the debate regarding race and variety is one actually more colorful than the mere generalization of East and West. It is a city that has triggered me to pay more attention to social demands, politics and market mechanisms. NYC truly challenges me to understand the importance of balancing sense and sensibility, romance and ration. And on that note, my go-to materials are lace, leather and organza; an varying array that I tend to use in a more masculine way rather than their traditional feminine context.
Fashion, to me, is a stage and I’m just one of the characters representing my feelings, my characters and my styles, the full-circle combination of which contributes to a show of unabashed grandeur.
Hoi’s NYFW “Time Traveller 1940s” collection showcased on the Nolcha runway this February was, once again, inspired by the women factory workers’ uniforms of that era. The factory uniform was unique to the feminist movement of the time given it was the only sort of uniform that remained rather unisex — especially compared to those worn inside hospitals, planes, armies and police departments.
The Gemma Hoi brand may still be young in terms of development, but given the solid storylines and well thought-out approach to fashion as a cultural and social mechanism, I for one am very optimistic about the future of this label and its maturing market activities over the next few years. Vision and focus will soon become 20/20.