Though winter isn't usually a fruitful season, the pastwinter brought a bountiful harvest to Macao-borndesigner Gideon Tam. He made his debut catwalk showat Copenhagen Fashion Week and then showed hiscollection at Paris Fashion Week in early February. The fall/winter collections he took to Copenhagen andParis focus on knitwear for men between 20 and 40. Working within a controlled palette of black, slate,sophisticated gray and beige, all the way to the purest,brightest white, Tam handles a variety of natural fabrics,such as yarns, cotton, cashmere, merino and camel hairto design cardigans, crew-neck sweaters, track pants,blazers and shirts.
Tam is one of the eight emerging designers out of 80chosen by Hong Kong's Fashion Farm Foundation topresent in Paris. His show and collection also received wide acclaim inCopenhagen from buyers in Denmark, Germany and theNetherlands. "I've gotten recommendations several times frominternational buyers and press that I trust to showcaseGideon at CFW. I was more than thrilled with his showand collection and we need to do it again," theCopenhagen show's CEO Christian Gregersen says. Hellen Liu Ning, brand development manager withVipshop.com, was also impressed by Tam's design.
"The collection is more about key items rather than thecomplete look. Most of the items are wearable andelegantly humble, but the use of natural fibers likemerino and cashmere gives a luxurious feeling to anyone wearing them. It gives menconfidence and makes them stand out," she says. Tam's tailor mother ran a knitwear factory, and he grew up with all kinds of textiles and textures. He says he had a high requirement of his clothes compared with other boys of his age. Later he studied art and design at the Leeds College of Art for two years and then KingstonUniversity in England for three years, winning several design awards.
After graduating from Kingston in 2001, he joined a traditional French luxury fashion brand as aknitwear designer, where he gained valuable knowledge of working with natural fibers. "That French fashion house attracted me for two reasons. One is that they had many luxurynatural fabrics that fit knitting. The other is they were looking for young designers to revive theold brand," Tam says. In 2009, he launched his own knitwear label in London and named it Placed by Gideon. "Every designer has a dream to start his own label," Tam says. "I don't have much pressure inLondon, where there are many young up-and-coming designers and there is a friendlyatmosphere for independent designers."
Traveling frequently between Asia and Europe, Tam says his best muse is himself. "I like traveling and observing people. See what people wear. For men, it is important to dresspractically. "But how to balance between smart and casual? How does one remain comfortable withoutlooking sloppy? What can replace a tailored jacket, while still retaining a sartorial look?“ All these questions inspire his designs. Exposure to the international fashion scene is one aspect of Tam's ambition, the other is toenter China's market.
"I really want to kick off in China. I'm a Chinese, educated with experience in Europe and I'd liketo bring my experience back to China," he says. Currently some of his collections are made in a small factory in Dongguan, Guangdongprovince. But the business is tough, he says. As an independent label, Placed by Gideon has a small quantity of products, which means thefactory does not make money from them. Paradoxically, young designers need to do somethingspecial to get recognized.
"It's really difficult to be a fashion designer in Hong Kong. The industry does not have a broadfoundation. You need a lot of passion to survive," says Edith Law, chairwoman of the FashionFarm Foundation. FFF and the Cultural Industry Promotional Association of Macao financiallysupported Tam to go to Paris and Copenhagen. "Designers are key facets of the fashion industry. China has many young and talenteddesigners but very few are known to the world," Tam says. "They need opportunities to expose their work and to test their designs in the world market."