Cynthia Mak: Fusion Fashion

Many of us fail to realize that fashion is not just about looking cute – it’s a serious art form. From the sketchbook to the sewing machine, the process of creating a clothing line requires great artistry. Looking a bit closer, one begins to see the intense creative process that is required of a designer. For Hong Kong’s up and coming designer Cynthia Mak, her interest in fashion design was not rooted in a love of clothing, but rather, the visual arts.

Having previously studied graphic and interior design, Mak moved to London to study at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design (CSM). Although she had never studied fashion before, she took fashion design as her foundation course. She told fashion stylist and blogger Kim Howells for her self-titled blog, “My mum thought it was weird because I could not sew a button on, had never ironed or done my own laundry. When I selected fashion on my foundation course I got through so decided to go with it!” Her talents as a designer shone through and by the time she finished her program at CSM, she graduated with distinction.

Upon graduating, she presented her final collection at CSM, which received much praise from Vogue Italia. The prestigious fashion publication marked her as a promising new designer, and this helped her earn jobs with major fashion labels. Working under designers like Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Roksanda Illincic, Mak gained the early experience that she needed to boost her resume. However, she had already proven that she had an eye for extraordinary fashion designs. Once she gained the confidence to branch out on her own, she returned to Hong Kong to begin working on her independent fashion line.

What makes her designs so unique lies in her sources of inspiration. Reviewing her highly acclaimed collection as a CSM graduate, the clothing looks almost futuristic with abstract geometric prints and very untraditional structures. While designing this line, she was inspired by the sculptures of American artist Lee Bontecou and the totem poles of the Pacific Northwest Coast of America. These influences helped her achieve an industrial yet organic look with this collection. In one of her pieces, the model is wearing a gray-silver sheer dress that is accented with black geometric shapes. She sports an Eastern-style black-silver hat and a black poncho-like cape. The model looks as if she has been taken from a futuristic sci-fi film. The clothing is almost perplexing, making her designs quite distinct yet very chic. Her eclectic style is one of the most distinctive aspects of her clothing, and this is quite evident in her Spring/Summer 2015 fashion line.

Mak’s first independent collection is one that fuses together aspects of Eastern and Western fashions, creating a highly unique look that is sure to sell this Spring. The Wild, an online fashion, style and design magazine described her Spring/Summer ‘15 lookbook as “[An] assemblage [that] gathers accents from the far east and combines this oriental aesthetic with Parisian-esque refinement, adding a fresh take on contemporary sophistication.” Following her Instagram account, one can see how this collection was inspired by the artwork of French conceptual artist Daniel Buren. Pulling from this 1960s Parisian style, she includes lots of black and white stripes in her designs. Her use of primary colors gives this collection a very bold look that mimics the classic style of Paris and Milan fashion trends. However, she does not forget her roots. Hong Kong’s fashion trends tend to be a bit flamboyant and edgy. We can see these characteristics in her line’s varied skirt lengths and the dramatic cuts of her pieces. Furthermore, her mixing of black and white stripes with colorful geometric patterns mixes both Eastern and Western styles, creating a sort of hybrid that looks beautifully modern.

Her Spring/Summer line made its debut in London at the Somerset House during fashion week this past month. While this event will give her clothing plenty of exposure, she is following up this showing with another in Paris this October. This designer is eager to share her beautiful pieces with the world, and really, who can blame her? Even though spring seems far in the distance, make sure to get your hands on her edgy, elegant clothes. These little numbers are just the thing you’ll need to liven up your post-winter wardrobe.

– Caitlin Eldred