It has been little over one decade since designer Angel Wong took on the parts of both professional makeup artist and headdress createuse. Perceiving and interpreting aesthetics in a comprehensive way, Wong finds herself in the perpetual pursuit of creating stylistic harmony and balance. Temper and Wong talk avant garde, regulations and headgear traditions.
avant-garde ˌavɒ̃ˈɡɑːd/ adjective:
“favouring or introducing new and experimental ideas and methods.”
Avant Garde vs Avant La Lettre
“Avant-garde (pronounced a’vant-garde) is an intellectual, artistic and cultural movement characterized by the experimental, the radical and the unorthodox. Derived from French, meaning [in English] vanguard or advance guard [the part of an army that goes forward ahead of the rest], the term describes those few who dare to go in front and defy conventions,” stated Faraoese designer Barbara Gongini in her April 2017 essay on this particular art form.
The term “avant-garde” first appeared with reference to art in France in the first half of the 19th Century and is customarily linked to prominent scholar and socialist avant-la-lettre Henri de Saint-Simon, according to Tate Britain. De Saint-Simon believed in the social function of the arts and credited artists, alongside scientists and industrialists, as the leaders of a new society. He, in his final earthly year of 1825, noted:
“We artists will serve you as an avant-garde, the power of the arts is most immediate: When we want to spread new ideas we inscribe them on marble or canvas. What a magnificent destiny for the arts is that of exercising a positive power over society, a true priestly function and of marching in the van [i.e. vanguard] of all the intellectual faculties!”
We rush back to the first half of the 21st Century and divulge the edge of a new style forerunner in the experimental art game: China.
“China’s latest fashion designs are often made up of a Westernized base infused with extravagant Chinese elements, resulting in really unique final products.” Milliner and Makeup Artist Angel Wong
Make Up vs Millinery
Designer, makeup artist and milliner Angel Wong has been active in the highest segments of fashion for more than a decade. She in 2005 set up Angel Wong Image, her all-inclusive team of professional makeup artists. Other than specialising in fashionable make-up, the tribe additionally offers up its quintessential “one-and-only” bridal make-up sessions as well as its stand-out wardrobe styling services. What’s more, the company’s Kowloon (Hong Kong) shop features more than one thousand handmade headpieces and fascinators. Joined by made to measure services and an abundance of accessories imported from Europe and Taiwan, Angel Wong Image has become a firm fixture with the fascinator set across Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China.
And from within that fascinator set, sprouts a fascination with all things upscale. Luxury fashion, despite being on the decline, to this day remains big business in China, yet at the same time the standards of what constitutes a real high-end piece are being lowered — and counterfeit goods still swamp the Mainland. Nevertheless, China is so large and diverse that is hard to describe the entire style battalion, let alone capture its fashionable ongoings under one common denominator, with opportunities for creative, independent product at the lower- and mid-range levels ubiquitous. Basking in that beaming ray of light, Wong talks the deluxe delight talk.
Joined by Temper, she walks the walk.
“I mix feathers and felt to combine the light and the heavy. And create a more flamboyant appearance.” Wong
Given there is no one common denominator, Temper presents Wong with a three-fold classic China Fashion query as we review role patterns, ready-to-wear and sinamay.
Temper: The role of fashion in China’s fascinator scene.
Wong: There is a pattern to be spotted here. Western brands and design seems more influential nowadays in terms of the more elaborate or traditional design reserved for formal occasions. My headdress is very much based those Western styles worn, for example, at weddings, fashion shows and, how can we not go there, horse races. I do on occasion incorporate a number of Chinese elements into my work, but at their core, the designs bear a predominantly Western edge. As a milliner, I do show an inclinations towards the designing of large-scale fashion pieces which exude that studio Hollywood royal hat sense of timeless elegance and lively sophistication.
Speaking of fashion at large, China now increasingly boasts a unique sense of fashion trends, but remains heavily influenced by the West. Nevertheless, these designs are progressively infused with more extravagant Chinese elements to present a really unique finished product.
Temper: Let’s talk preferences. Ready to wear or avant-garde? Silk or satin?
Wong: I prefer the more avant-garde side of designing given it grants you the bespoke opportunity to get more creative with “things”. The inspiration for the pieces usually stems simply from my surroundings and everyday life, though I have admittedly been heavily influenced by the works of people like Philip Treacy. I love to use feathers and felt because these exquisitely combine the light and the heavy, building a solid base with a more flamboyant appearance. Finally, then, I regularly turn to sinamay and leather to get cutting edge with it.
[“Sinamay is one of the most popular hat-making foundations in the world. It is woven from the processed stalks of the abaca tree, a banana palm native to the Philippines. Abaca fibre is three times stronger than cotton or silk, and a fabric made from 100% abaca can last for over 100 years.” Thank you, Torb and Reiner]
“I personally use many fair-trade products, but still find it difficult to source all my materials as genuinely environmentally friendly ones, if you catch my drift.” Wong
Temper: What’s your view on sustainability in fashion?
Wong: There is still so much to do, both in terms of education and regulation. It can prove very hard to ensure that we are doing, is ecologically responsible — even for those who really want to go the whole nine yards. I personally use many fair-trade products, but still find it difficult to source all my materials as genuinely environmentally friendly ones, if you catch my drift. Sustainable fashion is driving new opportunities for innovative design and greater recognition needs to be given to those pushing forward these improved practices.
From head to toe, the design finds itself in the details and its wearer in turn reflects their personality onto the design — whether it concerns a cape, a pair of socks or a tiara. Bill Cunningham once stated, “fashion is the armor to survive daily life”. An armor built of fascination, education and a pint-sized hint of self-regulation, that is.