We met the London-based, Malaysian-born designer when he returned home in August last year for Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week, laden with showcases from his conceptual unisex brand of “new basics,” which thrives on aesthetics led by strong juxtapositions. And so, we spoke to James Hock on his fashion label and the possibility of a homecoming to Malaysian soil.
What was it that sparked the transition from crunching numbers as an accounting graduate to fashion designing?
There wasn’t really a transition per se, as I was doing both at the same time. When it was time to finally decide on giving up one of them, it was more a case of “why not,” rather than a life-changing premonition. I mean, was it a lucrative move from something sturdy like accounting? Not at all! But it was challenging, nonetheless.
Do you get to practise anything you have learnt during your accounting days in your fashion designing?
Not a lot, really. I mean, it’s quite hard to be objective when you’re creating something as subjective as fashion. But I do understand the limit of a budget, and I can handle my own tax returns (laughs)!
The James Hock brand showcased its collection at the Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week last year. How was the reception for your brand from the locals?
It was really, really good! I was quite worried before the show, but I think we did well and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. It was unfortunate that I didn’t really have the chance to check out the other designers, as I was so busy getting things sorted out backstage!
Do you think being “London-based” helped more in growing your career and your brand?
I think it helps creatively. But other than that, I think it’s fair game for all.
Would you consider coming back to your home country to further expand your brand?
Definitely. There have already been talks about it, so we’ll just have to see how things go from here on out. I started doing fashion proper when I moved to London, and I have to be honest, I was quite unaware of the industry in Malaysia. However, I do feel that it has become a lot more diverse, packed with more opportunities for younger labels, and with a much greater fan base. It would definitely be a new chapter of challenges if the expansion back home happens. So, watch this space!
The James Hock brand is said to create the “new basics,” or unconventional basics.
How would you define this new form of “basics,” and what does it entail that differentiates itself from the usual “basics”?
It’s basically changing our understanding of what basics should look like. A t-shirt is a basic, and we all know its shape. What I am proposing is something that would have the same resonance, practicality, and wearing ease of a t-shirt, but in a shape or form unlike the conventional one. That being said, my collection does not comprise of just basics, as they are lots of extensions to it. But the ease of wear is still a priority for us, to go along with the vital new ideas that differ in every collection.
What’s the story behind the AW15 collection?
AW15 was quite a controlled collection. I wanted everything to be really comfortable. So, we developed ideas we have used in previous collections. From there we improved the cuts, explored fabric options, and added ideas that would balance out an entirely new collection. This collection features wool felt jackets, oversized and hand-knitted jumpers, silk pieces, and not to mention, the accessories. Many of the pieces are cut to silhouettes that cocoon the body, making the wearer feel rather protected. So, you’ll not really know what you’re getting yourself into until you have tried on the collection personally.
This article was featured in the HANGER AW15 issue.