In this era of haste and instant gratification, fewer things take time and handiwork to create. Fewer still are those who approach the creation of such things with reverence. One of them is 29-year-old designer Hannah Kong, who recently launched her debut collection at Aruga by Rockwell. Dean & Deluca provided the hors d’oeuvres to go with the elegant Parisian theme.
The showcase features Hannah’s imaginings woven into life. 12 pieces of decadent broderie d’art occasion wear, taking hundreds of hours of meticulous stitching, beadwork, and embroidery known as the Lunéville or Tambour technique.
The young couturier is one of few Filipinos who learned the craft at the Ecole Lesage Paris, established by renowned couture embroiderer François Lesage. The storied Maison Lesage goes back to 1924, and the couture house worked with fashion luminaries such as Elsa Schiaparelli, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Lacroix, Louis Vuitton, Valentino Garavani, Christian Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Chanel under Karl Lagerfeld. The latter acquired Lesage as part of the Maison Chanel in 2002, in efforts of preserving and promoting the craft of fashion artisan workshops. It’s evident in her designs that apart from the skills she learned in the Professional Training for Haute Couture course, Hannah brought home from Paris this newfound appreciation for handcraftsmanship.
Hannah Kong’s work may be likened to a painting. Her canvas: silk organza on an embroidery frame. Her brushes: needles and hooks. Her paints: threads, beads, and paillettes. Her chosen tools of trade allow for limitless options of materials to play with: traditional fabrics, leather, metallics, mesh, precious stones, and virtually anything that can be sewn together to form intricate patterns that seem to oat on a beautiful silhouette. She passed on her techniques and penchant for details to her staff, resulting in exquisite works of wearable art that speak for themselves. Despite her relative newness, her creations have captured the fancy of editors, stylists, celebrities, and brides-to- be looking for the perfect dream of a dress.
“This collection is all about creating romantic, timeless pieces. It’s really in the details,” says Hannah. This is why for her, the success of the launch is as much on her staff. “I want to celebrate them. Their hands make the beautiful gowns. They are the real artisans behind each one.”
Hannah Kong’s showcase harks back to her time in Ecole Lesage and all her experiences from the past few years since. Her dresses are named after teachers, roommate, earliest clients, and favorite French names. “My show is very French, the feel of an afternoon stroll in the gardens of Versailles,” she says. “It’s an ode to my stay in Paris.”
Down the line, Hannah Kong is looking into prêt-à-porter. “But our focus is custom bridal because I love being able to do a lot with a wedding dress,” she says. “I really love embroidery and I’m trying to push the craft. I want to show that there is so much more to it, it’s really an art.”
Upon finishing her intensive Professional Training for Haute Couture program at Lesage in 2011, which she took after finishing Fashion Design at the College of St. Benilde, she came home and then promptly started her design career. Hannah began creating custom bridal, formal evening, and other types of occasion wear using the techniques she learned at university and her time in Ecole Lesage. In 2015, she went back to further expand her skills and learn a new technique. Through word-of-mouth marketing by clients and friends in the industry, Hannah managed to make a name for herself in such a short span of time.During my sit-down interview with her, the young designer shares what it has been like so far.
What was your path to becoming a designer?
Your work is intricate and detail-oriented…
Yes. I believe God is the ultimate designer, everything in nature seems so much in place, the colors and the attention to the minutest detail, whenever I think about that, I get inspired. I also used to collect vintage pieces. Nowadays, it’s more fast fashion, machine-made and mass-produced. If you look at vintage pieces, there’s a lot of handiwork involved, more attention to detail. In school, it’s what we were taught. You work on your embroidery pattern from the wrong side. If the back part is nice, the front is going to be nice.
What’s your design process?
Hannah Kong-inspired OOTD
Mike Dela Rosa dress / Ever New beaded clutch / Parisian shoes
I met with Hannah for our interview at Dean & Deluca a few days before her show, as she and her team were getting ready to survey the venue at Aruga. I thought I found her familiar because of her dad, the Francis Kong. He has been a huge source of inspiration for me ever since I attended his talk at CCF. I listen to his daily tidbits of business wisdom on my favorite classical music station, 98.7. DZFE. Through the course of our conversation, I found out why it felt like we’ve met before. Hannah and I have actually shared office space in the past, as interns for MEGA and Meg magazines respectively.I’m grateful that I had this opportunity to cross paths with her again and write about her story. “I can just stay in Paris and do embroidery my whole life,” were Hannah’s wistful words to me as we ended the interview. Hannah Kong is proof that hard work and long hours don’t feel as difficult when you are truly passionate about what you do.
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