One of the most important words in the fashion lexicon today is “innovation”. After all, the industry’s impact on the planet is huge, accounting for up to 10% of the global carbon dioxide output and a fifth of the 300 million tonnes of plastic produced globally each year, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. As much as the new buzzwords are about biodegradable fabric, materials sourced from seaweed and pineapple fibre and the increasing popularity of mushroom leather, it is also important to recognise the simple fact that it is the young who will serve as the vanguard for positive change.
Enter the Hung Innovation Awards conceptualised and created by industry veteran Gillian Hung. The winner of the first Asean Young Designers’ competition in Singapore 33 years ago, Hung has maintained her presence and relevance in the industry. “I have always been enthusiastic to carry on my journey to keep learning, sharing and educating. I have been learning from the best teachers and bosses for over three decades and I want to keep this passion burning by sharing my experiences working with Japanese, American and Chinese retail houses as a fashion and design director/consultant.”
Launching on Sept 15 at the M Resort & Hotel in Bukit Kiara, Kuala Lumpur, the inaugural Hung Innovation Awards is set to be an annual affair, bringing together three different industries — fashion, hair and makeup — to encourage the next generation of trendsetters to work hand in hand. The seed for these awards was actually planted during Hung’s days as president of the Malaysian Official Designers’ Association, established to support local fashion talents while helping designers innovate and commercialise their creativity. “Together with the late Sonny San, we created the MODA Young Designers’ Competition, where we picked the 10 best contestants, going on to nurture them and take their talent to the next level, complete with a total look experience. They had to learn how to work with young hairstylists and makeup artists too. We have been doing shows all our lives and can’t stress enough that you really do need to know how to design a complete image — just the outfit alone doesn’t cut it.”
Here, participants are required to submit three sketches, after which Hung and her committee will select 10 contestants to be paired with professionals from US-based hair company Kevin Murphy and makeup school The Glam Academy to create a total runway-ready look. Adding a twist to the design process is the mandate that the outfits will need to incorporate elements of its two key partners — Malaysia Airlines and Samsung. “Two outfits will need to be inspired by the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 device while one outfit will feature upcycled fabric from MAS uniforms,” says Hung. The winning team, upon completion of the fashion finale to be held on Nov 25, stands to win prizes like the new Samsung phone and business-class return tickets on MAS to destinations in Thailand.
On her decision to create yet another awards platform in an already saturated market, Hung stands by her mantra: “All artists must innovate. In a world that is constantly evolving in terms of digital technology, we must rethink, reinvent and redesign our creations. Fashion is art to me, but we must also steer this art form towards technology where processes and advancements in digital printing, digital weaving, sustainability, fabric recycling and so on are more important than ever. Successful designers produce collections that have their own identity and yet are able to constantly reinvent and change with the times. You need this in order to not fade away as trends come and go.”
A ready-to-wear designer herself, Hung will use the occasion to launch Master Mind Gen or MMG, a new label she created for the China and Dubai markets. “I had conceptualised this brand earlier, but due to Covid-19 and having to stay on in Malaysia to care for my aged parents, my plans got delayed. So now, it will debut in KL first. I hope that, one day, I can help young designers who wish to collaborate with MMG and learn the business side of fashion retail. The inaugural winner of the Hung Innovation Awards also stands the chance to work with me, having three to five stock-keeping unit (SKU) crossovers with MMG next year.”
Hung does caution, however, that not everyone is cut out for a career in fashion. “It is more competitive than ever,” she stresses. “Everyone wants the glamour but is not willing to work hard. There is no short cut to success. Being an artist, a creative, is already so difficult — you have to put in so much effort to keep learning and attain perfection. Not only that, you have to persevere and work tirelessly so your collections may be recognised by customers. A good designer not only showcases his or her talent and skills but also knows how to sell their creations to the world. At the end of the day, fashion is not just a dream. It is a business!”
This article first appeared on Sept 5, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.