Photography: Felix Wong
Art Direction: Mclayne Ycmat
Makeup: Beau Derrick
Hair: Anthony Payne
Model: Nora Vai
Born and raised in Hong Kong, rising designer and NYC transplant Ethan Hon began exploring the possibilities of fashion at a very ripe age. By five, Hon crafted his first trashionable dress, using only a garbage bag and scissors; by 14, the prodigy was pumping out full 15-look collections, all designed with his younger sister as a muse.
Hon’s premiere womenswear collection and senior thesis, “CHIMERA,” questions how we package ourselves to fit into society through dress. This playful exploration recalled ’90s Japanese brands with memorable branding and the idea that packaging is used to make products seem more appealing than in reality— a marketing “Trompe L’oeil,” so to speak. We caught up with the rising Parsons graduate to talk about rummaging through his mother’s closet and creating his standout, sculptural collection.
Describe your introduction to fashion.
“My first introduction to fashion came from my mom, who started buying designer clothes when I was 8 or 9 years old. When she wasn’t home, I would go into her closet to look at her clothes and flip them inside out to study the construction, the finishings and the fabrication. Once my little sister was born, my mom gave me some pocket money every month, and I would save up for the entire year and spend it all on fabrics to make a collection for my little sister every summer holiday.
My choice to study fashion wasn’t well received at the very beginning, because Asian families always want their kids to be a doctor or a lawyer. Even though my mom has been very supportive, my dad hasn’t been very happy with my career path. I guess part of me wants to prove to my family that I can sustain myself in this direction. I also have a huge fear of losing and being left behind, so my fear has become a positive energy for me to work even harder.”
You pulled inspiration from “identity and packaging design.” How did these ideas manifest into clothing?
“When I was kid, I was fascinated by those Japanese cartoon characters who would suddenly become superheroes after changing their clothes. I’m always fascinated by the idea of clothing and how it can change someone’s status or cover their real identity. Every morning we go into our closet to pick out the clothes that help create an identity for ourselves in order to blend into the society and certain communities that we want to be part of. I see this process as a packaging design process.”
Talk about your design process.
“My design process is very drawing-based. I usually take about a week or two to figure out my concept and once the concept is developed, I go straight to the sketching process, which takes about four to six weeks—I like to sketch a lot. People think I’m a big fan of draping because of the sculptured elements in my collection, but I’m not a big fan of draping. I basically sketch out all the sculptured elements. Once I start sketching, my mind automatically creates a formula for the patterns, so I’ll know how all the seams will be sewn together to create sculptural forms.”
What has your experience at Parsons been like?
“There’s always a love-hate relationship between me and Parsons. Resources are pretty limited—I wish we would have a fabric library, where we would be constantly updated with fabric trends. This drawback actually pushes every student to look for their own ways to do research outside school and develop their fabrics with their own mills. I like that Parsons offers a lot of interesting classes and students are able to take classes outside their major to explore their interests and establish their own strengths. I was born and raised in Hong Kong, where I found the education and the culture to be very self-absorbed. I didn’t know about it until I came to Parsons. Some of the classes I took here gave me a new perspective of my life and I’ve learned to see things differently.”
What is it about Japanese culture that interests you?
“I grew up with a fascination of Japanese culture; I’m always amazed at their minimal lifestyle. I watched Japanese cartoons everyday when I was a kid. I also appreciate the way they see beauty in every aspect of an object. This is why wabi-sabi means so much to me. When I knew that I wanted to apply the packaging design idea into my collection, I immediately thought about origami and those collapsible packaging boxes that create interesting forms.”
What was the biggest challenge you faced while creating this collection?
“The biggest challenge I had for this collection was looking for factories who were capable of creating those pleated knit pieces in the collection. I consider them haute-couture pieces because the process of knitting and finishing each garment was extremely time-consuming. We spent about two months to look for yarns and another six months to develop swatches and samples. It took at least 35 hours to finish each garment because all the pleats had to be stitched. It was risky for me to do knitwear because I have never done knitwear before, but I feel very thankful for having my agent Vivian Li, who’s been helping and teaching me along the way.”
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