Showcase of style

Showcase of style

In Fashion Visionaries 2011, a local dress designer has helped organise a major exhibition of Hong Kong's latest trends

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Dress designer Bonita Cheung at the exhibition in Sha Tin.
Dress designer Bonita Cheung at the exhibition in Sha Tin.
Photo: Safran Lecuivre/SCMP
Every little girl dreams about her wedding day. It is the most important day in many women's lives, when all the attention falls on the bride and what she is wearing. That is why Bonita Cheung Kit-man loves designing wedding gowns.

"I love wedding gowns and evening dresses; they are so aesthetic and beautiful. In a Chinese wedding, it is also customary that the bride will change and wear a few dresses, so there is a great demand for them," says the local designer and executive committee member of the Hong Kong Fashion Designers Association (HKFDA).

Cheung had her first taste of fashion when she took a design course in high school in Canada. However, she changed her course in university. "My parents thought I should have a practical degree, so I ended up taking marketing," says the single child of the family. After she graduated in 1989, she came back to Hong Kong and began to work in the advertising field.

But fashion found its way back to her. In 1998, when Cheung was already married and mother of a three-year-old daughter, she wanted a change.

"I reached the point where I wanted to do something I really liked. If I didn't, I knew I would regret it forever." And that was fashion.

"I grew up with my mother making me clothes. And I've always enjoyed making things with my hands."

Cheung started trying out some designs and had the dresses made by a tailor, whom she borrowed from a friend. It was a refreshing learning experience. "I enjoyed the whole process from sourcing fabrics overseas to experimenting with new styles and ideas. Sometimes it's the fabric which inspires a design," she says.

Now her studio in Central is frequented by customers who are eager to discuss their dream dress with her. Cheung says getting to know them is the first and most important step.

"I'll talk to my customer before coming up with a design. I need to see what she is like. It's very important that a dress fits the personality."

From consultation and drafting a design, to fitting and finally the birth of a perfect dress could take up to three months, so she can only work for a small number of clients. It suits Cheung fine, as she prefers taking the time to create something from scratch.

"Hong Kong women have good taste in fashion and many want something unique by having it hand-made. And we can certainly do that because there are many good local designers here."

Cheung is passionate about promoting local designs. This year, she helped the HKFDA organise Fashion Visionaries 2011, an exhibition showcasing the work of local designers. The event is co-organised with the Hong Kong Heritage Museum and funded by the government's CreateHK.

"Last year at the Shanghai Expo, we exhibited pieces by Hong Kong designers for the first time. The feedback was impressive and we thought: 'Why not take the exhibition back home?'"

The exhibition in Sha Tin goes one step further by presenting the whole industry and everyone involved, including fashion models, photographers and artistic directors. "We want people to see not just the clothes, but experience the whole process and know the team."

Visitors will quickly notice 4,000 bright light bulbs installed on the ceiling of the exhibition hall. Cheung says the design is deliberate. "Each light bulb represents a brilliant idea. We want to tell people that Hong Kong has good designs, too."

Fashion Visionaries 2011 runs until March 12, 2012. Visitors can learn about the history of Hong Kong fashion and design since the 1960s, and pieces by more than 60 designers are on display.

For details, visit www.heritagemuseum.gov.hk

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