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PEOPLEText: Kanae Tamase

Fashion brands from Hong Kong have livened up recently. One of them is Mountain Yam, which the designer named the brand after his nickname from high school, eveningwear couture brand for celebrities. It was chosen as a finalist of the Hong Kong Young Fashion Designers’ Contest (YDC) in 2009. The line focuses on the highest level of craftsmanship and exceptional detailing. Also it launched diffusion line “112mountainyam” for contemporary daywear in 2010.
Let’s hear his story and his view on creative fashion design.

Mountain Yam

Please introduce yourself, and tell us about the story of establishing “Mountain Yam” please.

I’m Mountain Yam, Hong Kong fashion designer. I graduated from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, for Bachelor and Master degree. During my Bachelor degree, I went to Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) in NY as an exchange student and before starting Master degree, I went to Paris for the internship at “ Peclers Paris”.

I started my career as a designer when I was 24. Because I like evening dress a lot, I made them for my Bachelor degree collection and I tried to explore more daywear clothing with structural, architectural design for my Master degree. After graduation, I worked for the handbag design company in Hong Kong for 2 and half years, and my experience of studying and making accessories at FIT helped me a lot during that time. This handbag design company produces all the leather related stuffs like handbags, shoes and etc for world’s big brands including PRADA and COACH so I learned lots of technical skills especially for handbags. Then I moved to ANTEPRIMA which was very interesting company owned by Japanese couple, their design team was based in Hong Kong, Japan and Italy. I was lucky they sent me to Italy for the fashion show but because it’s a big company, many things were already fixed and the situation I cannot have much changes made me bored, to be honest. So during my second year at ANTEPRIMA, I started my own creation after work from 7PM on weekdays and also spend weekends. It was a tough year but I really enjoyed preparing my own collections.

I joined Hong Kong Young Fashion Designer’s Contest (YDC) in 2009 and the organization, Hong Kong Trade Development Counsel (TDC) invited me for fashion show and business matching. As I met buyers, journalists and some medias, I started to think of my own future.

One very interesting moment at ANTEPRIMA was when the owner invited me and some colleagues for dinner and he mentioned “ No Regret in Life “ during the dinner. I decided to quit the company when I heard this, told my boss “thank you for reminding me about life, and that’s why I am sorry but I need to pursue something in my life, I don’t want to regret, even if I fail it will be a good experience.”

So, I started my own brand with small studio. 112 mountainyam for daywear clothing line, we mainly target mainland China market and trying to expand for Taiwan, Singapore, and other developing countries. And MOUNTAIN YAM is evening wears and couture line for celebrities, weddings and events. Other than those 2 lines, we also provide total design package outsourced from other big company who wish to cut costs.


Does the experience of handbag designer influence your clothes design?

Yes, it does a little bit. For handbag design, we spend lots of time for the technical issues even it looks simple but for example, for the handle part, you may have to put a tape from top to the bottom to reinforce and hold a shape of the bag. And have similar technical considerations for the evening dress I make. As they are often very body-fitted, bustier style, the top bra or strapless bra should have some bones or suspenders to support the top body. And we also pay more attention to the detail such as hand-stitching stuff in both handbag and clothes but this depends on the cost.


What is the most important thing you think for fashion design?

I think it is to create the confidence and individual images of personal expressions, behavior and one’s own culture. For us, we try to bring out the hidden part of the people. A fashion designer always creates something for a purpose and design is for satisfying the demands and wants. The most exciting thing is to see someone lacks of confidence integrates image of someone else by our clothes and styling. As a designer, we want to bring lots of new things but these are usually for the press and media, and actually not really good thing for the customers who actually wear them. So we have to balance the creative side and business side. I try to provide good clothes, images and styling so the money can support my dream.


Is there anything that keeps your condition being motivated for creative work?

This is a very interesting question. Well, I don’t want to stop. I am scared of not working. I think this is my problem, when I stop doing something, I start to think too many things about future, family, friends, etc. But while I am working on something, I don’t find myself tired, even feel more energy. So that’s why I don’t like to get bored and love to have changes. Though as a brand, we need to keep constancy to make people understand our value, for the party wear I don’t really have to keep this in mind. Also I believe people cannot have your interests as their job otherwise they lose the interests. So I don’t do much of party dress design for not to lose my interests in it.


What kind of clothes do you like to wear for everyday?

I like shorts, sandals, T-shirt or polo in summer. Through the year, I like to wear something simple but little difference. I always try to bring some different thing for each day depends on the weather. If the weather is bad, I wear colorful clothes to keep myself happy. For the events, I wear something different from everyday style.
I think the fashion is for refreshment and the total look is the expression of your self-image.


What is your future plan or challenge?

We are working on men’s wear and having a fashion show. We are going to launch our spring 2014 collection with a designer from another brand. Also, because our business partner moved to Shanghai, we are going to expand sales there. For next few years, we are going to concentrate on working for the wholesale line in order to gain more cash flow to the company. And in 3-5 years, we will have our own store, first in Hong Kong and franchise it in Mainland China.


Would you please give message to the readers?

Well, life is short, we gotta treasure every second to pursue our dreams. No regret and let’s enjoy!

Text: Kanae Tamase

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