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After 8 years away from London Fashion Week, Kay Kwok’s return with his rebranded KWK label was highly anticipated. The futuristic AW22 collection that he provided, titled Chapter 1 – The Journey Begins, did not disappoint. Using warped digital patterns and military-grade pocket-wear, the collection introduced us to a dystopian future in which a cohort of avatars have been left behind after a great exodus from the planet Earth. We caught up with the designer himself to delve into the various inspirations behind the concept and the designers who have influenced who he is today.
Your AW22 collection, titled Chapter 1 – The Journey Begins, envisions the aesthetic of a people left on earth after an intergalactic exodus. What inspired this concept in your mind?
One day, when I had just awoken and was scrolling through Instagram, there was a fascinating feed which really caught my eye. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa had a project titled #Dearmoon, in which he invited eight members of the public to join him for a trip around the moon on Elon Musk's SpaceX flight. At first, I just thought it was really exciting, and naturally hoped I could be one of the travellers, but then I saw that Elon Musk has officially confirmed that he’ll be sending humans to Mars in 2024. It was exciting news to me, but this emotion soon turned to worry. Can we send all of humanity? If not, who gets left behind on Earth? That’s how I started to imagine what would happen in the year 2100.
One of the most futuristic aspects of the show was the virtual appearance of the avatars Bo-bae and Bom. Are metaphysical appearances such as these where you see the future of fashion going?
Definitely. In the metaverse, every single one of us, would have our own world and would have another us to represent ourselves. In there we basically live as we do on earth – with everything, you name it. But a digitised version. We need to dress up the other us! So we need digitised fashion. Of course, my brand would still have physical clothes for this world too.
Was there a specific turning point at which you realised that fashion was what you wanted to devote your life to?
When I was little, I first strongly got into art and drawing, and whilst my studying A-Levels in Hong Kong , I started to develop an interest in fashion and design – I still remember how amazed I was by seeing the wonderful pictures of the Alexander McQueen show and the Dior couture show by John Galliano. They wildly inspired me to show my talent to the world. And then once you’ve started, it’s unstoppable. I guess that’s what they call devotion?
Your show was accompanied by a quite cinematic score of foreboding dark-ambient music. How did you come across this arrangement? And what made you think it was right for the show?
The music and the video made up the narrative of an intriguing dream that Bom had. The dream inspired him to start his journey and find his exit. It shows us the transition of his emotions and this turning point in his life – from feeling calm to worried to horrified, from a harmonious life to an adventurous, challenging one. It marked the start of his journey, as well as the brand.
The ascendancy of the metaverse in popular culture at the moment has made a lot of people talk about The Matrix film franchise, bringing both its themes and its aesthetic back into the zeitgeist. Would you say that this, or any other similar films, have influenced the collection at all?
I do love The Matrix and I would definitely say that I was a sci-fi movie addict. But now I’ve watched too many and I’m a bit fed up with it, basically because of their similar repetitive narrative arcs. I think it is in my blood now and I even think this collection has echoes of Interstellar in the way that time is one of its key elements.

During your tenure at LCF you interned at Alexander McQueen, the brands style is quite drastically different to yours – do you think it influenced your creative vision in a less apparent way?
Alexander McQueen (when Mr. Alexander McQueen was still the creative director) influenced me a lot, both in terms of design and spirit. The message of expressing oneself so wildly through the runway was very important to me. About McQueen’s influence on the design, looking back on the designs that I did 10 year ago, you can tell – the alignment and the boldness of the design scream McQueen. However, through out the years, I have been trying to develop my own aesthetic - mixing my interests, my views on the happenings in the world, my sense of beauty and my knowledge of fashion design. I mix all these to create a Kay Kwok style.
Your return to London Fashion Week last month under the rebranded KWK by Kay Kwok label marked 8 years since your previous appearance. Did you always intend for there to be such a sizeable hiatus? And why did now seem like the right time to come back?
I love London, the culture and the super diverse fashion scene. However, having a fashion brand requires so so much devotion, business knowledge and time. I found it a bit too much to handle having just graduated from LCF and then suddenly presenting on the LFW stage pushed by GQ China. I just wanted to enjoy the pure joy of design and I wasn’t really ready to sacrifice my time to think about the core of the brand, marketing and PR strategy, sales strategy, blah blah blah. Meanwhile, I got the chance to design concert costumes for Muse, and then some other pop divas in China and Hong Kong. So I just spent most of my time in that industry and ran my fashion brand on a small scale, with a capsule collection every season in Hong Kong and China. So I had basically disappeared in the London fashion scene since then.
And after all these years, I started to get a clearer picture of what I wanted to do with the brand, especially now everyone is talking about the metaverse and NFTs and all these things which are totally what I’m into and what I want the brand to go for. So I think now I can spend more time on the brand.
You have outlined your intentions for the brand to pursue a ‘genderless and seasonless path’. Was it a difficult decision to break with these conventions? Or did it feel like the obvious choice to make?
I would say I am in the middle of it. Every turning point in my life has taken me so much time to adapt. I remember it made me worried for so long, like for a few weeks when Darren, the LCF MA design course director, suggested (actually forced, but of course I thank him now!)  that I study menswear when I had been a womenswear student in Hong Kong.  Then, when I was a LCF menswear graduate, showing up on the London Mens Fashion Week with my menswear designs, and people got to know me as a menswear designer. Then I was designing menswear for years and I was just going with the flow. And now, there is another turning point for both me and my brand – to go genderless and seasonless. Whilst it is not a new thing in fashion industry, I feel like it is an obvious choice to make because I’m listening to myself this time. Technically, I am confident that I can manage genderless design.
Before your MA at London College of Fashion, you studied fashion back at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. How did your experience differ at the two institutions?
The course I took in HK PolyU was a Degree course – the course prepared us to be capable and to handle design jobs in the fashion industry by imparting  practical knowledge upon us like pattern cutting, marketing, textile design and fashion design, etc. However, the MA course in LCF trained us to be more professional. But I basically just forgot all the other things that I learnt except the design side.
Which designers would you say have had the greatest impact on your style?
I would still say Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. As far as I’m concerned they are irreplaceable. They are legends! The theatric sense and expression of my collection are heavily influenced by their work.
The inclusion of ‘Chapter 1’ in the title of the collection suggests that you want future collections to follow a specific lineage – how far into future have you planned? Do you think it’s important for younger brands to build a strong sense of identity?
Everyone talks about how to sustain a future as a fashion brand or fashion house. My brand starts from a story of a gang of abandoned humans (ten avatars in total) and this story will have to end someday. I just try and enjoy myself and make the best of every season. Obviously right now continuing this iteration of the brand is what I want to do with myself but ultimately the future is unknown, and I am open to anything that universe brings me.
About whether it is important for younger brands to build a strong sense of identity, superficially, yes. As we all really want to see the diversity of fashion industry. However, it really depends on whether we want ourselves to have a strong sense of personality and identity in our daily life under the traditional biases and twisted values of modern society. But I do believe, in the metaverse, everyone will be more daring to be ‘themselves’.

Harvey Byworth-Morgan
Chris Yates

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