We first met Jourden designer Anais Mak backstage at her Spring 2017 presentation in Paris, and it was immediately evident that though the soft-spoken designer is admittedly shy, her point of view speaks loud and clear. She chose to present at a high school gymnasium because she felt that the setting represented the time in life when young women start to get in touch with who they are, often through style. She infused the typically mundane space with character via her textured and embellishment-rich designs. Spins on oxford shirting, smock dresses, and full skirts felt ultra feminine but far from prissy—especially as worn by the by the confident street-cast models.
A few days after the show, we were able to catch up with Anais for a quiet moment and to learn more about how the young Hong Kong designer uses clothes to communicate her vision.
The Window: What was your relationship with fashion like when you were growing up? Did you always know you wanted to be a fashion designer?
Anais Mak: I’ve always been interested in clothes. I came from a family where my mom was also interested in dressing up and always reading Vogue, so I was exposed to fashion at a young age. That being said, I had doubts. I thought it was maybe just a passion that every girl had, and I didn’t realize I could take up the creation part of the industry. At one point, I realized that clothes are what gave me the most emotions, and it’s the way I feel the most comfortable expressing myself. As a kid, I was introverted and not good with words. I had a lot of ideas though, and whenever I dressed up in random vintage or pieces that I made myself—it felt so good expressing myself that way.
What did you learn while studying fashion in Paris?
I learned that fashion is a diverse industry with a lot of different roles. I realized that what I wanted to be was a designer, because the creative aspect is what I liked best. It feels the most pure and makes me feel like I have a point of view when I work directly on the clothes. When I’m designing, I feel the most free.
Is that why you decided to go straight into launching your own line rather than working for another designer?
In fashion school, I trained a lot for sketching and drawing, and I did lots of research. At the time, I felt there was a big disconnect between the things I learned in school and the reality of the industry, and I was very impatient. I wanted to explore that disconnection, so whenever I traveled home [to Hong Kong] during my time studying in Paris, I would meet with these old generation tailors. They were so skilled, but they weren’t working with young designers at all. I would take the ideas from school and try to make these collections by working with them. Then, a store in Hong Kong picked up my designs, so I got to experience having my clothes sold to real customers. That was really important to me, because I felt like I was finally starting a dialogue. Right when I finished school, I wanted to take it all and create a comprehensive brand with a message and a personality. I wanted to tell the story of the girl behind Jourden.
So what is the ethos at the core of Jourden?
We are always very interested in primary feminine aspirations and what women like—who and what they want to be and how they are attracted to things. I combine that with a very traditional way of making clothes—lots of embroidery, smocking, ruffles, gatherings, and pleating. It always comes down to textures, and these are achieved very traditionally. When we use school techniques in unexpected ways to create new textures, it creates a new context. It’s important that they’re all items that you can easily merge with your wardrobe, and it’s intended for women of all different ages, lifestyles, and locations. Never the same personality. The formula was to never stop listening to what girls want. I always start my next collection based on the feedback of the previous. There’s a lot of transparency.
How are you influenced by both Paris and Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is always home to me—it’s a very interesting city with a lot of emotions. People there are born into trendiness and love shopping. The consumer power is inspiring and creates an open mind that accepts newness in life through fashion. That said, the creative scene is not as developed as it is in Paris and other fashion capitals, and there’s an element of chaos there that makes it difficult. In Paris, I learned how to embrace my identity as someone from Hong Kong. Everyone here is so in love with themselves and the city, in a good way, and that taught me something—if you’re a creative, you really do have to accept full-on who you are. That’s how you communicate a point of view.
Tell us about the Spring 2017 presentation.
This was my second-ever presentation, and there was a lot we wanted to do. I loved using a space with a context from normal, everyday life. We transformed it into something interesting through the clothes and the girls. I also loved the idea of a school because that is where girls start to realize their identity and how they form friendships with each other and approve of each other.
Did you have a specific inspiration for Spring ’17? Did you have a mood board?
There’s one in the back of my mind, but I don’t use a physical mood board. I work in more abstract concepts. A lot happens when I work hands-on with the clothes and the textiles—it’s more artistic. Sometimes I can’t even put my finger on it, but there is a drive inside me, an emotion that I want to capture.
Why did you chose to cast real women in the show?
The mix of real women and models showed the diversity of the clothes. It was important to use women who are not working full time as models, because they are more free-minded, and you can really feel their personality. These women talk to me a lot backstage about how the clothes make them feel strong or naive. A lot of time professional models are more disconnected from the clothes. I really liked the process of casting these women off the street.