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Each season we are sold a new fashion look. What was coveted one season is relegated to the back of one’s wardrobe the next. But Melbourne-based designer Lui Hon sees fashion as evolution, not revolution. Hon’s approach to fashion has seen his work featured in galleries, both in Melbourne at the Lesley Kehoe Galleries and in The Fuller Building, New York.

Like his beautifully crafted clothes, fashion designer Lui Hon chooses his words carefully. There are no large arm gestures, as are often seen in this industry, only thoughtful responses to each question. Hon, of Chinese-Malaysian descent, arrived in Melbourne in 1999, intent on pursuing a career in fashion. His father, a salesmen, and his mother, a patternmaker in a clothing factory, were against this career choice. His father thought fashion was a career for females to pursue, while his mother, through her own experience, put fashion in the ‘too hard basket’.

Hon’s portfolio was accepted by RMIT University’s School of Fashion, which must have disappointed his parents. “You have to follow your instincts. It’s something you feel deeply inside,” says Hon, whose need to explore body and form was initially realised by exhibiting at RMIT’s First Site Gallery upon graduation in 2001. The cavernous gallery featured Hon’s graduate collection as part of a performance piece with dancer Meredith Lewis, who wore his designs and was captured on film. Hon’s honours year project at RMIT in 2003 was equally insightful. With the music of Icelandic band Sigur Ros, Hon lay naked on the floor using the movements of his body to inform possible garments.

However, artistic collaborations are usually at odds with the commercial world. Stints in retail occupied Hon for the next few years, working in high-fashion boutiques, while slowly attracting a small private cliental for his bespoke designs. In 2008, reality called, with Hon being included in the Project Runway series on Foxtel’s Reality Channel. “It was like fashion boot camp,” says Hon, recalling the isolation of being placed in a room and given numerous tasks to complete by midnight to be presented to a jury the next day. “It was all about the look, rather than the quality of each garment. A crudely glued hem or a sheared off edge didn’t mean elimination,” says Hon.

While Hon didn’t win the competition, the reality television show provided insight into the commercial side of the fashion industry, featuring quick turn-around disposable fashion. “It taught me that a garment has to be flattering the moment it’s presented.” Unfortunately, the experience also made him question his own personality, “I don’t have a large TV personality. I’m relatively shy in front of a camera.” Hon should have taken solace that some of the world’s greatest fashion designers have reflective personalities. Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo are likewise unlikely to use large body gestures or ‘kiss the air’ at fashion events.

Hon started his own label a year later in 2009, still reflective, but with greater confidence in where he was heading. He started producing two collections each year. In 2010 Luka Maich came on board as business and branding development manager. “I have a banking background, but I’ve always been drawn to fashion.” My mother’s label (New Zealand), The Case is Altered, was part of my life from the 1970s through to the 1990s,” says Maich. “At that point, Lui was getting help from everyone, but no one, if you looked at the business plan at that time. Clothes need to be beautiful, but the reality is they also need to find a buyer,” he adds.

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Neue Luxury • Issue 2 • Fashion • Feature • BY Stephen Crafti SHARE

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