Anyone shopping in Dunedin’s Barkers Mens Clothing store on George Street can’t fail to be charmed by Daniel Kwok’s enthusiasm and great customer service. At the end of 2014, he graduated from the Otago Polytechnic with a Bachelor of Design (Fashion) degree and is one of six Otago Polytechnic graduates to be showing their collections at the 2015 iD Dunedin Fashion Show at the Railway Station. It was such a pleasure to catch up with Daniel and gain some insight into the world of ‘KWOK’s Revolution’.
Daniel Kwok in Barkers, Dunedin
When and where were you born?
I was born in Hong Kong in the early ’90s and lived there for around 15 years.
How long have you been in New Zealand?
I have been in New Zealand for just over 6 years. I went to high school in Timaru before starting my fashion degree in Dunedin.
What made you choose Dunedin as a destination and what do you like about living here?
I chose Dunedin for two reasons. I knew that the Otago Polytechnic provides an amazing learning environment for students, especially the creative side of the campus. There is no rule on what we can do and what we can design. It gives you a lot of freedom on what you want to become as a designer. Also, Dunedin is such a lovely multicultural and fashion-based city and I really enjoy a place not being overly commercial like Auckland and Wellington. Living here helps me bring out my personality and enjoy a lot of little things around me.
What was the most important thing you learnt from your fashion degree at the Otago Polytechnic?
I have figured out that in order to impress anyone, you have to impress yourself first. You cannot convince others if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing. And also sleep well while you can!
How would you best describe your design aesthetic?
I like things that are simply detailed, stand out and are practical. My looks are created to seamlessly integrate into current modes of style and are semi-tailored with a focus on unusual (yet cohesive) colour and pattern combinations.
Daniel Kwok at Collections 14 Fashion Show, 2014. Photo by Chris Sullivan/Seen in Dunedin. Models: Ali McD Agency.
The collection you’ll be showing at iD is ethereally beautiful – vibrant and wearable with an “east meets west” vibe. Can you tell us a bit about the design process and inspiration behind this collection.
‘Dynasty of Benediction’ seeks to present a visually astounding showcase that reflects my past and present influences – as if this was an introduction to myself. The collection contains clear references to both Eastern and Western links and collides these two contrasting cultures together in a package that is fun, quirky and entertaining to watch. The more pronounced features of these two cultures come through in the choice of fabrication used (modernist architecture), composition of forms (Western silhouettes and Eastern details) and screen-printed Eastern terms (Chinese calligraphy). The idea of harmonising these main elements is to transform the strength of each individual feature into a cohesive and provocative Resort collection.
The hallmarks of modern architecture dictate that form follows function and, in the same way, outfits in this collection have been composed to best showcase the structures and fibre(s) of each individual garment. By doing so, we are presented with looks in which fabrics conduct a sort of exchange amongst themselves – both revealing and concealing as well as continuously skewing the focal point of each garment. There is also a simplicity and clarity in these forms that has been composed from cues observed within the Western fashion industry (strong lines and the elimination of superfluous details) as well as the integration of archetypal Eastern details (up-turned mandarin collar and Eastern drape).
The decision to use singular colours within each outfit also works with modernist teachings and further lends itself to the attached meanings of colour that pervades Eastern culture. The Chinese typography used (‘福’) means blessing, bliss and good fortune which has a strongly emotive quality within the Asia region and this word has been applied in two different forms: one being a direct hand-written calligraphy from a well-recognized artist and the other a deconstructed and re-formed version developed into a motif.
‘Dynasty of Benediction’ collection. Photo taken by Emily Hlaváč Green in Shanghai. Models: International Fashion Academy/Shanghai University of Engineering Science.
We understand that you have worked as a Barkers intern. What did this involve?
I did a three-week internship with Barkers Menswear in their head office based in Auckland. During that period, I was assisting the buyers on the new season summer range and got a chance to design a short-sleeved shirt based on the buyers’ thoughts. The team really liked the design and it ended up being the summer season focus piece. The shirt was so popular, it sold out nationwide before it had a chance to go on sale. I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to work for the team.
Dorian wears shirt from Barkers, designed by Daniel Kwok.
Detail from Daniel Kwok-designed shirt for Barkers.
We understand you make bespoke bow ties for special occasions. Can you tell us more about this and how they can be ordered?
I started my label by making some funky-printed bow ties during my first year at design school. And now I do make seasonal bow ties as part of the collection as well as custom-made bow ties for clients and weddings. Customers can choose the material/pattern/colours/style based on their needs and order them by contacting me via phone/email/Facebook.
Bow ties from SS14/15 ‘Colour Bomb’ collection. Photo by Daniel Kwok. Model: Tobi Scott.
Which outlets stock your KWOK’s Revolution collections (including Summer 2015)?
At the moment, I am not stocking my designs anywhere. People can contact me if they are interested in any piece from my website and we can go from there. But at the moment I am working on my first ever commercial collection for 2016, so hopefully you will be able to see it in retail stores soon.
Are there any NZ or international designers who have influenced your designs?
I think that I’ve got most of my inspiration for my collection ‘Dynasty of Benediction’ from Shanghai Tang and Thom Browne.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I see my label ‘KWOK’s Revolution’ having more frequent collections and being stocked in a few retail outlets with a loyal group of customers. Also, I would like to do some custom-made pieces.
Thank you so much, Daniel! Can’t wait to see your collection in the iD Dunedin Fashion Show.