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ARTISTREE

Style Stage: When Fashion and Performing Arts Collide

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The border between fashion and art has never been clear – and it’s even more unclear on stage and on screen, where costumes play an essential part in performances. As the two worlds continue to collide, converge and evolve, we speak to two Hong Kong creatives to find out how they are giving new meaning to the intersection of fashion and the performing arts through their recent projects.

“Fashion delivers a visual message.”
Sony Chan

“Fashion is a powerful language that tells people about your background, personality and belief,” says Sony Chan, a Hong Kong-born, Paris-based actress, stand-up comedian and fashionista who has garnered a following for her elegant style and her contagious, down-to-earth sense of humour. “For actors, costumes are important tools to shape characters. Like Chow Yun-fat’s trench coat in A Better Tomorrow and Maggie Cheung’s qipaos in In the Mood for Love – you can’t think about these movies without recalling images of the iconic outfits.” 

And for Chan, understanding the language of fashion allows her to take it beyond acting and into other domains of the performing arts, such as stand-up comedy. In France, it’s customary for comedians to wear all black, but Chan showed up in a bright cocktail dress to her first stand-up performance. “What I wear reflects the content of my show,” she explains. “When we had movie stars as guests on On va tous y passer, a France Inter programme that I co-hosted, I would wear clothes with reference to their notable roles.” 

“Fashion helps deliver a visual message in my performances,” she adds. “It captures the audience’s attention immediately and speaks to them in a non-verbal way.” This is why Chan always picks her outfits with care, whether she’s appearing on TV, her own Youtube channel where she teaches French and shares her insight on French culture and style, or more recently, the Le French May online workshops on French fragrance culture. “Perfume is the finishing touch of the entire outfit; and the right outfit helps me establish a memorable style,” she says. “More importantly, it enriches the content of my performance.” 

 
“Dance transforms my design into a new expression.”
Vincent Li

While Chan brings new colours to French comedic shows through fashion, Vincent Li is a Hong Kong- and Melbourne-based designer who brings elements of poetry and theatre into his design. He draws inspiration from the arts, particularly from dance. 

“I grew up as a trained dancer, so I can see many similarities between the two art forms as both are about self-expression,” he says. “When different people put on the same piece of clothing, they add their own character into it. Likewise, the same dance routine can transform through different dancers’ interpretations.”  

With his combined passion for fashion and dance, it’s no surprise that Li’s works often marry both worlds. That included his participation in HK Ballet’s WearDance programme, which brought together designers, choreographers and dancers in a series of creative collaboration. “The fashion piece I created for this project wasn’t costume-like, as the choreographer and I wanted to conjure an image of a character that was more realistic rather than one from a fantasy world,” he says. “So it was a good balance between a costume that allowed the dancer to move comfortably, and a dynamic piece that reflected the current time and society.” 

More recently, Li launched his Spring/Summer collection at an event that combined dance and dialogue.“The dancer asked me improvised questions about the collection. Then, when the music changed, we started to move. The choreography was based on the stories behind my collection,” he says. “Previously, I’ve also worked with dancers to present my works, and I realised their movements added so much more meaning and dimension to the garments. They brought my pieces to life and transformed my design into a new expression.” 

Another recent project that brought fashion and art together was the ArtisTree Selects: Light In/Out Film and Exhibition. The multimedia exhibition showcased Norwegian artist Fredrik Tjærandsen’s bubble dress concept in a dance film, large-scale installation and a series of photographs – read more about the inspiration and creative process behind the project here

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