Interview with Samson Leung
Drawing inspiration from Chinese paintings and home films, Samson Leung’s collection is a visual journey on the unexplainable feeling of being overwhelmed and finding yourself. We speak to him on where he drew his inspiration for his collection from and also his exploration into cultural identity and fashion design.
Hello Samson, tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I was born in Taiwan when my parents moved there for work, but raised in Hong Kong where my whole family is from. I grew up having the opportunity to experience behind the scenes of film sets as my parents work in the entertainment film industry. I also happen to have a habit of collecting stationery and rocks.
You studied womenswear but did menswear in the end, is there a reason behind it?
I started my collection with womenswear, but after trying it on a men during a fitting, my tutors agree that it looks much stronger on a men’s body and it fits the narrative of the films that I’ve shot, which my collection is based from.
What do you think about womenswear vs menswear today?
The line between both has been blurred already! I think the young generations of designers getting bolder and building their own distinctive identity, regardless of mens or womenswear.
Your collection Dear You seems to be a retrospective, what is the story and inspiration behind it?
Based on the feeling of being overwhelmed, I redirected the emotions into a mood film I shot in Japan named Dear You. I also shot a second narrative film in Hong Kong named Paper Boys which follows a “paper” boy who felt overwhelmed and decided to leave his life behind. However after reaching an epiphany, he realises that he is still very much a papery boy at heart in the end. For this project I collaborated with friends at the Royal College of Music and we composed a poetic soundtrack specifically for this body of work. These films serves as a form of a self portraiture. In traditional Chinese self portraiture, Shan Shui painting or geology were used as a form of metaphor of self reflection. With this in mind, I created the textiles you see in my collection.
We’re intrigued by the material you used for the collection, what was the specific quality that you wanted to create?
It’s SLIME! Yes — that kind of putty material that kids all over Instagram play with. It was quite easy to make the slime, however to dry it the way I wanted took me a long time. I spent about three months experimenting until I found a recipe that dries enough for me to work. I managed to create a dried slime in the way that when it is cool, it stays solid and stiff and when it is warmed up, it softens up and it allows me to mould and stitch with it. It is a difficult material to work with for sure, as it can be quite scratchy when it’s dried. As I developed this new material, I had to invest quite a lot of time during my design process to understand its strengths and limitations, along with and figuring out a way to work with the material on a mannequin.
There are “subtitles” for every of your look, how did you come up with that idea? Is there a reason why the words are jumbled up?
These subtitles were derived from the Paper Boy film. I realised I didn’t have the luxury of creating home videos as a kid, so I wanted to use this opportunity to present my collection in the form of a film. Originally I came up with this idea of hoping that the runway show itself would serve as a sequel film by bringing Paper Boy live on the catwalk. The idea was that when people photograph my collection on the runway, it would look like a still shot from the film. I’ve always felt that there was a miscommunication between the 2D and 3D world. Subtitles can be mistranslated or jumbled up between languages hence, I created it the way it is present in the catwalk.Are there any creatives out there that inspire you as a designer?
Zimoun, Leslie Zhang, and is it cliche to say that my friends inspires me?
Definitely not! If your friends don’t inspire you, it’s hard to grow as a designer. Speaking of which, as a CSM BA grad, what are your thoughts between fashion designers that graduated from CSM vs other designers?
Being at CSM offers a lot of opportunities that allowed us to collaborate or work for big fashion power houses. In a way we are taught to be more independent. There isn’t a set of skills that we must have in order to become a designer. We’re taught to learn as we create and explore our interests in order to achieve the final goal of our creations. Fun fact, I actually learnt how to make organic perfume during my time in school! Just for exploration and fun, you never know what things will inspire your work.
As an international student, has living in London changed you in anyway? Whether it be designing or lifestyle choices?
It’s funny because I often get told that my work itself looks somewhat “Asian.” Until this day, I don’t really know what they mean by that, I don’t intentionally explore topics that are derived from my culture or background. But I guess subconsciously my Asian roots are gradually spreading within my works. I’m a really fast paced person (most of the time), and I’ve really gotten that from growing up in Hong Kong where everyone is really onto it to achieve what they want. It’s been five years since I’ve been in London and it’s still part of me! In a way, the lifestyle in London is at a much slower pace as compared to Hong Kong. Which actually is quite nice because it makes me feel calmer than when I’m back home!
What are you up to next?
I’m about to start my Masters in Womenswear at Central Saint Martins. With all honesty, I’m anxious but also really excited and looking forward for to this adventure. On the other hand, I’m also planning to do a few other personal project ahead, but nothing quite confirmed yet!
Do you feel like your future works are going to be similar to what you’ve presented so far or are you looking to explore different things?
Of course I definitely will continue to explore different topics within my work. I think I have an distinctive identity and I wouldn’t say it will be similar to what I presented. But hopefully my works would become more matured and an evolved version of what you’ve seen so far.
What is one thing you would want to achieve through fashion design?
To build an emotional connection with my audience and make them feel and react in a certain way.
Photographer JUN H
Grooming EMMA LOUISE
Fashion by SAMSON LEUNG