Som Kong: Birth of the Brand
Part Two of an in-depth look at this rising star in the Toronto fashion scene.
Som Kong’s work is synonymous with androgynous, angular garments that are versatile and offer multiple ways of wear. His love of architecture and the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at The Rom can be seen as an influence through his brand, especially with his logo. The entire branding of Som Kong began with the logo, with the M in the logo to be exact. Graphic Design Michael Tran asked Som who he was as a designer.
“For me, I am never able to give a straight answer because once you do, once you define something, there is no room to grow from that. You kind of put it out there and it’s set in stone. For me it is ever evolving.”
After Tran looked through archived sketches, he began to notice the angular aesthetic…and perhaps he also noticed the mural of The Rom Crystal on Som’s wall. And so the soon-to-be iconic slash in the M was born.
“That little slash is supposed to echo The Rom…It’s neither inclusive nor exclusive, neither and or or. I love to use it to define or explain my process work. It’s neither a horizontal or vertical line. Sometimes it’s just an oblique stroke. It’s mysterious. And that’s how I relate it back to the brand.”
The slash is echoed on everything from Som Kong’s hand-made packaging, business cards, and even his garment labels which were a happy accident thanks to a botched production of tags that he outsourced arrived too late to fix.
Som Kong’s collections have started off as collaborations. For TOM Fashion Week, he collaborated with MeU to create an LED jacket that was truly magical. He has created a leather dress for Danier Leather based off the design of his 500 Credit Card design challenge piece for VISA. He has created a jacket in his signature style for Danier Leather as part of the Ryerson design challenge. And his current collection is no exception.
The now highly recognizable collection in the fashion community was birthed from a commission for a Madonna video submission for Girls Club. To solve the dilemma of creating a one-size-fits-all pant for six dancers, the Hakama with its slashed side and wide leg was the perfect solution.
“My initial inspiration wasn’t oriental at all. It just so happened to have that symbolism because of the association. But the strapping – that is exactly taken from the Madonna cover album of Rebel Heart.”
The pants were never meant to be sold, but thanks to some prodding from Som’s Creative Director Amanda Blair, the addition of another piece, and a showcase at The Drake Underground, the pants sold out! Som Kong was then propelled on to showing and selling his collection at INLAND in the fall and at the TFI Showcase at World Mastercard Fashion Week this season.
I’m perched on his drafting stool, sipping the last of my tea, watching the final stages of alterations take place so deftly in front of my eyes. I tell Som that one of my favourite things about his collection is that it is so gender-neutral.
“I believe that clothes should be for everyone.”
“I wouldn’t say the brand itself is androgynous. But it is a concept that I love exploring. It’s something I will always fall back to. It’s nice to have versatility in pieces. I believe that clothes should be for everyone. When people ask me if I design for men or women, it’s a question that I can’t answer. I truly design for myself.”
I am on my second cup of tea and the iron is pumping out steam as Som Kong presses my pieces. I get a sneak peek of his newest collection on the wall and already make a mental list of what I want. For those hoping for an upcoming fashion show, you will have to patiently wait. He isn’t avoiding runway per say, but is staying away from it for the time being.
“I love the idea of being able to do art installations because I feel there is more of a dialogue. You can actually share your story. You can actually talk to the customer. You can actually TOUCH the product. And that’s what I enjoy seeing and learning from.”
One thing we can be sure of is that he will continue to push the envelope with his designs and will Stay Awesome!