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The fall/winter collection by Gideon Tam at Copenhagen Fashion Week. Provided to China Daily
Though winter isn't usually a fruitful season, the past winter brought a bountiful harvest to Macao-born designer Gideon Tam. He made his debut catwalk show at Copenhagen Fashion Week and then showed his collection at Paris Fashion Week in early February.
The fall/winter collections he took to Copenhagen and Paris 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 hair to design cardigans, crew-neck sweaters, track pants, blazers and shirts.
Tam is one of the eight emerging designers out of 80 chosen by Hong Kong's Fashion Farm Foundation to present in Paris.
His show and collection also received wide acclaim in Copenhagen from buyers in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.
"I've gotten recommendations several times from international buyers and press that I trust to showcase Gideon at CFW. I was more than thrilled with his show and collection and we need to do it again," the Copenhagen show's CEO Christian Gregersen says.
Hellen Liu Ning, brand development manager with Vipshop.com, was also impressed by Tam's design.
"The collection is more about key items rather than the complete look. Most of the items are wearable and elegantly humble, but the use of natural fibers like merino and cashmere gives a luxurious feeling to anyone wearing them. It gives men confidence 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 Kingston University in England for three years, winning several design awards.
After graduating from Kingston in 2001, he joined a traditional French luxury fashion brand as a knitwear 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 luxury natural fabrics that fit knitting. The other is they were looking for young designers to revive the old 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 in London, where there are many young up-and-coming designers and there is a friendly atmosphere 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 dress practically.
"But how to balance between smart and casual? How does one remain comfortable without looking 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 to enter China's market.
"I really want to kick off in China. I'm a Chinese, educated with experience in Europe and I'd like to bring my experience back to China," he says.
Currently some of his collections are made in a small factory in Dongguan, Guangdong province. But the business is tough, he says.
As an independent label, Placed by Gideon has a small quantity of products, which means the factory does not make money from them. Paradoxically, young designers need to do something special to get recognized.
"It's really difficult to be a fashion designer in Hong Kong. The industry does not have a broad foundation. You need a lot of passion to survive," says Edith Law, chairwoman of the Fashion Farm Foundation. FFF and the Cultural Industry Promotional Association of Macao financially supported Tam to go to Paris and Copenhagen.
"Designers are key facets of the fashion industry. China has many young and talented designers 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."
(China Daily 03/27/2013 page19)