Chan Nung, Rachel
J: How did you come across macramé? In what ways do you apply macramé to your artworks?
C: Fashion design introduced me to various forms of textile art, such as embroidery and weaving. It was during my research on knot-tying art that I became interested in experimenting with mixing these elements with my fashion creations.
Macramé is rather feminine by nature, but it can instil a hint of masculinity when paired with outdoor apparel. While most macramé pieces feature only one or two types of knots, the variations are infinite. It is conveniently used to represent different subjects. For example, in Mother Bone, I create twisted and crooked bones to represent the changes in the female body after going through childbirth and breastfeeding.
J: What draws you to knot-tying art and what are the obstacles to its application?
When used in fashion pieces, the biggest challenge with macramé is gravity. Like fabrics, paper patterns or loose threads that are bogged down by their own weights, knots are no exception. But that is what makes them interesting – I can drape them in different directions to achieve various artistic effects.
Photo by：Mworks Jeff
Image courtesy：Silvio Chan
J: What do you consider to be the most important work in your oeuvre, or one that left the deepest impression?
C: The most important has to be my 2014 fashion collection, with a photoshoot that took place in a car scrapyard. As I have a fondness for the ethnic style, we had a large patchwork quilt backdrop made with fabrics sourced from all over the world. It features the nude female body (breasts and buttocks), splashed with eye-catching and vibrant colours.
I hired plus-size models for the shoot because I wanted to bring out the sense of power in this work, as a way to demonstrate my aesthetic values. For me, aesthetic values cannot be determined by preferences, because it is the least reliable –what one likes and dislikes can change every so often. One second you swear it is the best look, and the next you cannot chuck it in the bin fast enough.
Photo by：Tenny Lo
J: You were a student of Silvio Chan, fashion designer and creative director of Alternatif Fashion Workshop (L7-02). What was it like under his tutelage?
C: I was initially a business major, and did not recognise my career aspiration in fashion design until I met Silvio. While rookie fashion designers would quite easily feel uncertain of their future, Silvio’s mentorship is much like a guiding light. His experience-centred teaching approach focuses on practical work: he entrusts you with a project and gives you free rein to see it through from start to finish. He would never limit us with established norms and premises of the fashion industry, only tailor his teaching to our natural abilities. He inspired me with this motto: If you will it, you can achieve it.
J: What made you choose to share a tenancy with artists Helen Ho and Carrie Chan? Can you tell us a bit more about your partnership?
C: We decided to share a studio at JCCAC because the three of us, apart from a shared apprenticeship under Silvio, are also close friends and have known one another for a long time. We each have our own specialty – exhibition curation, art therapy and fashion design, so we are able to complement each other. If I have an exhibition coming up, they will be there with curatorial advice and administrative support.
J: What do you seek to pursue in fashion design and art?
C: Every artistic creation is an expression of one’s cultural background and identification, reflecting, to various degrees, social development, as well as ways of life and people’s values. From the distinction between haute couture and ready-to-wear, we see people’s views of their bodies and their changing attitudes towards luxury goods and services. For example, people in the past took their time and effort to dress up, and fashion and luxury needed to be grand; while comfort and practicality triumphed over grandeur appearance in the fast-paced modern life. These subtle changes continue to inspire my thinking and artistic exploration.
Chan Nung, Rachel
Fabric and threads | 2016
Fabric and threads | 2017
J: What are your thoughts on the development of the fashion and textile industries? Have you got any new plans?
C: The advent and popularity of technologies have huge impact on the development of the fashion and textile industries. The emergence of 3D printing, laser cutting and synthetic fibres (such as nylon and polyester) expand the possibilities of fashion. For my future attempts, I will marry knot-tying art with natural dyeing to create an exhibition space. I will also hold workshops where participants will learn to make use of macramé and turn junk glass and plastic bottles into decorative hanging ornaments. As for developing my own label, I will experiment with fabrics in making accessories to add to my fashion pieces.
Ed: Chan founded her hippie culture-inspired fashion label, CHO CHAN, in 2014, attempting to strike a chord with her audiences with universal values such as freedom, love and peace embraced by the hippies.