With a unique flair for cuts and an un­par­al­leled imag­i­na­tion, Leonard Wong is the Chi­nese-born Tokyo-based de­signer that will send you off into an oth­er­worldly reverie.

Schon! - - Leonard Wong -

Young de­sign tal­ent Leonard Wong grad­u­ated from Bunka Fash­ion School in 2013, be­fore swiftly go­ing on to found his la­bel in the same year. A mix­ture of fu­tur­is­tic slick­ness, bear­ing all the weight of tra­di­tion, and of ar­chi­tec­tural strength, Wong’s de­signs are biotech­no­log­i­cal won­ders. “Af­ter grad­u­at­ing school, the usual thing to do is to work as an as­sis­tant un­der a pro­fes­sional de­signer,” he tells us, “but as a ‘hands on type’, I was com­pelled to plunge my­self into the fash­ion race and test my abil­i­ties. Chal­lenges are al­ways present around ev­ery cor­ner, but I was very lucky to meet peo­ple who saw po­ten­tial. Thus, I soon found spon­sors.”

Whilst com­ing first in the grad­u­ate race to suc­cess is no mean feat, Wong had gar­nered him­self at­ten­tion world­wide be­fore even fin­ish­ing his course. Win­ner of Up-and-com­ing De­signer Grand Prix in Tokyo, the Min­istry of Cul­ture Award and the Air France Award, Wong’s ex­cep­tional work was re­warded with the recog­ni­tion and plat­form called for to start his la­bel. “The award that changed ev­ery­thing was the Up-and-Com­ing De­signer Grand Prix award in 2012; de­spite be­ing com­pli­mented for my de­signs by other stu­dents and teach­ers, I wasn’t sure if they were se­ri­ous or merely be­ing po­lite. It gave me courage to try new things and not be paral­ysed by the prospect of fail­ure.” Two more awards were to fol­low in the same year, the Bunka Fash­ion Col­lege De­sign Award and Bunka Fuku­sou Gakuin.

With a par­tic­u­larly free and out-of-this-world ap­proach to de­sign, Wong breaks con­ven­tional bound­aries by cre­at­ing sur­real lines and fu­tur­is­tic vol­umes. “I think that all cre­ativ­ity stems from child­hood mem­o­ries,” he ex­plains. “When you were a child, there was no limit to your imag­i­na­tion. You wouldn’t stop to think, ‘oh no, that’s not pos­si­ble be­cause…’ As you grow older, you start to learn the ‘rules’, ‘lim­its’ and ‘bound­aries’, and that can trap you with a medi­ocre de­sign. That is why it is im­por­tant to be a child at heart if you want to be cre­ative.”

Di­vided chrono­log­i­cally into steps and chal­lenges over­come in his own life, Wong’s col­lec­tions are inspired by cap­tiv­ity, re­lease, over­throw­ing tra­di­tion and the act of transcending space and time. “I was ex­plor­ing the no­tion of some­thing time­less; a de­sign so per­fect, it never needs to change re­gard­less of its sur­round­ings. With Cell Seg­re­ga­tion, the idea of evolv­ing into a biotech­no­log­i­cal form in­trigued me.”

Although Wong works pre­dom­i­nantly with forms and shapes, tex­tiles and tex­tures are also key. “When I am ex­am­in­ing a piece of fab­ric, I move it through my fin­gers see­ing its flex­i­bil­ity, strength, tex­ture and weight,” he ex­plains. “Whilst do­ing this, I meld it or fold it into var­i­ous shapes, then a de­sign of­ten pops into mind. Leather is, with­out doubt, my favourite ma­te­rial. It is easy to make the sharp curves and the slick lines I aim for in my de­signs.”

With stock­ists in Europe and Ja­pan, both the LEONARD WONG Col­lec­tion and the Ex­per­i­men­tal Line are con­quer­ing hearts world­wide. Hav­ing shown dur­ing Paris Fash­ion Week, Wong is keen to break the na­tional bound­ary and ex­pand fur­ther afield. “Tokyo is an in­ter­est­ing city for fash­ion,” he muses. “It is di­verse, but at the same time, the com­plete op­po­site. The ‘Should’ and ‘Should Nots’ are very pro­nounced, es­pe­cially with age.” Tak­ing his cue from the dual­ity of Ja­panese fash­ion – and its con­trasts be­tween con­tem­po­rary and tra­di­tional cul­ture – Wong cre­ates with both spheres in mind. “If you look at a tra­di­tional piece of cloth­ing, you’ll no­tice how ex­tremely in­tri­cate and de­tailed they are,” he ex­plains. “What is con­sid­ered fu­tur­is­tic is ba­si­cally min­i­mal­is­tic. The fur­ther in time we go, the sim­pler the de­sign gets.” While some de­signs re­call the lengths and lines of con­ven­tional dress, Wong’s sleek cuts and rigid sil­hou­ettes add a tech­no­log­i­cal edge to his work. “When I blend a piece of ar­mour (i.e. the tra­di­tional) with the min­i­mal­is­tic, I try to keep the same power of no­bil­ity and the grace the piece ex­udes, and warp it into some­thing that has a dif­fer­ent type of no­bil­ity and grace.”

With only two years’ ex­is­tence, the Leonard Wong brand is well set to be a last­ing pres­ence on the in­dus­try radar. As for the fu­ture, his am­bi­tions, true to his sig­na­ture dual­ity, are both am­bi­tious and mod­est. “There are many plans, but the ones clos­est to my heart are the cat­walk in Paris, and to have a branch in my home town.”

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