A conversation with Kin Yan Lam – the Dong cloth, a traditional fabric manufactured and used by the Dong people, an ethnic group from Guizhou
‘Face-saving’ behavior in China
After a Research Gate study from February 2020, individuals in a Confucian culture would be inclined to promote fashion sustainably as this would encourage them to meet society’s expectations and their social value. This behaviour is known as ‘face-saving’. The face-saving tendency acts as a moderator in the relationship between perceived value and behavioural intention to purchase fashion products sustainably. China became a figure in shaping the green trends in the global fashion market: from 2015 to 2017, the awareness of green labels in China rose from seventy-eight percent to eighty-nine percent, the environmental characteristic of a product was only ordered after personal health and safety. «In the market of China people are focusing on the price of the garment, versus the quality. It is a concept of consumerism we must change. I care about the impact of the production process, the story and history clothes carry, as well as my own artistic choices», says Chinese designer and participant at the International Talent Support Italy, Kin Yan Lam.
Lampoon talks to Kin Yan Lam
Growing up in China’s rural countryside, Kin Yan Lam wore what was passed down from older generations. His wish to have his own clothes confronted him with the construct of fashion – how it affects self-concepts and self-esteem. After years spent studying at University in China and London, he founded his label. «Through my fashion, I try to slow down the pacing of the current industry. For example, by conducting collaborations with brands or craft». Combined with his culture and practicability at its core, Kin Yan’s label represents his perspectives on the world. His collections, inspired by every day, are infused with the affection for craftsmanship and preservation of techniques, re-evaluating aesthetics, and norms in menswear fashion. After absolving his Master’s, Kin Yan Lam focused on designing garments made from Dong cloth, a traditional fabric manufactured and used by the Dong people, an ethnic group from Guizhou, China.
Dong cloth in Guizhou, China
The material is sourced through a two-year-long handwork process of picking cotton, spinning, weaving, embroidery, dipping in natural dyes such as indigo, cowhide, or egg white. «I went to Guizhou and purchased the fabric from the Dong people. At the time, Dong cloth manufacturing slowed down because younger generations were not interested in traditions – I felt the urge to re-introduce the fabric». He continues «Limitations in this collaboration were the sourcing price, the language barrier but also the width of the fabric. Every fabric piece had measures of forty-eight centimeters. It adds consciousness and precision to the working process, as one cannot just waste the fabric. I did this by adapting my patterns and finishes to the fabric pieces». The designer explored interpretations of a customary craft with the support of modern technologies. He continued utilizing the fabric for other collections. Talking about the development in the fashion industry, he recognizes an evolution: «I welcome the idea of the market expanding its knowledge on sustainably utilizing materials and handcrafts. People will become interested in the behind-scenes, the stories, the techniques, and the culture». Dong people would appreciate the interest and utilization of their ancient materials for an international purpose. «It is beneficial for all parties involved». Could artisanal craft act as a vehicle for a greener future in the fashion industry? «As I learn more about the fashion industry, I am more eager to make changes, no matter how small, on sustainability and craft». The slow-down caused by the arrival of Covid-19 would represent a chance to reshape society. «I will adapt to the changes by working with a more flexible and production-process-connected schedule. I currently work on projects with local designers from Hong Kong who bring expertise to the table in terms of maintaining my heritage, for aspects I am not familiar with».
Kin Yan Lam designer
Hong Kong based designer, he graduated from London Collage of Fashion’s Menswear programme. His first collection, launched in February 2020 was inspired by Dong cloth a traditional fabric manufactured in the province of Guizhou in the South of China.