Som Kong: In the Beginning

Part One of an in-depth look at this rising star in the Toronto fashion scene.

It was the night before World Mastercard Fashion Week, and I was running through the busy downtown in the blustering cold to my final destination – the downtown studio of Toronto designer Som Kong.

Som Kong has been making waves in the fashion scene with his striking aesthetic and dynamite collaborations with such heavy hitters as Canadian brand Danier Leather. I had first met Som at his showcase at The Drake Underground in the summer and had since become an avid fan and collector of his angular garments. I was ushered into Som’s studio and greeted with a hot cup of tea as I settled in for a night of alterations in preparation Fashion Week. 

 

 

Anna Crooke Photography

 

Som Kong’s studio is in line with his brand – it is minimal, organized: A project calendar fills the hallway, patterns and sketches cover the walls inside a black geometric grid. We figure out what length my pants and jacket need to be hemmed to, and I take a seat as Som begins sewing on his Juki, a sewing machine passed down to him from his mother who used to be seamstress at Levis.

Som Kong originally started with photography. “It was the first photo I captured of my parent’s hugging,” he says when I ask, Why photography? “That’s what I wanted to capture through my photography – just moments like that.” But after photographing models, he realized that he wasn’t satisfied by the clothes they were wearing. That’s when he decided to try his hand at crafting his own design.

 

“I reverse-engineered my pieces. I learned through making mistakes.”

 

“I learned that design was what challenged me more and I got more into it. But the way I learned was kind of working backwards; I reverse-engineered my pieces. I just learned through making mistakes.”

He went to a high-school that had a simple fashion course. His teacher inspired him to create his own collection and in his fourth year, with the help of students from business, graphic design, and music programs, he held a fashion show that raised $10 000 for projects in Africa 

Som Kong had originally planned to go to school in London, but choose to go with Ryerson. “[London] was just so expensive. [Ryerson] had mentioned there was going to be an exchange program so I saw that as an opportunity…to still be able to travel.”

And travel he did. Som Kong entered a fashion design program in Hong Kong that “changed [his] perspective on design.” While Ryerson had been focused on the technical process and the commercial viability of a collection’s design, Hong Kong took a different and more organic approach.

 

 

“[Hong Kong] told their students to take this paper and drape it onto the mannequin and create repetitive techniques. It was such a different perspective because being so technical at Ryerson [where] it was literally pencil on paper and then translating it to material, [here we were] taking the paper and using it like a fabric on the mannequins. We were making seams and curves into the paper and stitching it. It was basically creating your pattern from the start. In Hong Kong, you were figuring it out as you go. I think that’s creative because you make mistakes and you learn from that and you build from the process work. That’s really where my inspiration comes from – the process work.”

 

… To be continued …

Please stay tuned for Part 2 on the blog tomorrow!