In 2010, renowned Taiwanese fashion designer Sophie Hong opened a flagship store in the northern wing of the Palais Royal in Paris. The Palais Royal, which is adjacent to French Ministry of Culture and the Comédie-Française, has a long history as a place for cultural innovation. In her iconic Hong Silk, which is a new silk fabric invented by the designer, Hong fuses Chinese-style design with international fashion industry demands. In 2014, Hong Silk, a clothing collection of the same name as her fabric, earned Sophie Hong a Best Design trophy in Taiwan’s Golden Pin Design Award. Given her presence in the international fashion world and her unique aesthetic and practices, Hong’s work can be considered a model for Chinese design.
Hong Silk–the innovative silk fabric created by Sophie Hong–combines classic and modern, Eastern and Western characteristics. The surface of the cloth resembles flowing calligraphy or the landscapes of traditional Chinese ink paintings. Hong’s designs have appeared at numerous major cultural events. In 2000, Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi wore a Sophie Hong dress during her promotion of the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Another Chinese actress, Gong Li, once wore a dress by the designer to the Venice Film Festival. Bai Xianyong, a highly respected Kunqu Opera playwright and producer, wore an overcoat designed by Sophie Hong when he took to the stage at the culmination of the final performance of his famous eight-season-long production of The Peony Pavilion.
When asked to talk about how Chinese design can stand out in the highly competitive, global fashion design industry, Sophie Hong cites her own experience as the example. It is important, she says, that designers bravely and persistently enter the international market: their brand must have a clear message and an original aesthetic. If designers consistently deliver quality work, they will naturally express their competence. She said that as a person of Chinese descent, she uses her innate understanding of Chinese culture and the needs and preferences of Chinese people to her advantage.
Right from the beginning, Hong designed with the international market in mind. Her early collections, however, still had strong ties to Chinese culture, as well as a focus on environmentally friendly production methods, natural materials, and cultural preservation. She worked, for example, with craftspeople to preserve traditional methods of textile manufacturing, and combined this knowledge with the clothing needs of modern people: comfort, functionality, and refinement. Her designs, she says with confidence, are suitable for everyone, which ensures her brand is present in markets across Europe, the Americas, and Asia.
Hong believes a solid education, interdisciplinary learning, and varied life experiences are crucial if Chinese-style design is to naturally grow. As a student in the Fashion Design department at Taiwan’s Shih Chien University, she worked hard to improve her skills from 8AM to 5PM every day. In order to expand her creative abilities beyond design, she delved into other related fields, such as painting and art theory. After graduation, she continued to create paintings, furnishings, ceramics, and metal works, often collaborating with other artists. Today, Hong lives in an old house and likes to garden. She focuses on quality of life, and feels that new experiences are very important to advancing her creative ability. Her attitude toward lifestyle is apparent in the interior design of the Sophie Hong flagship store in the Yongkang shopping area in Taipei; there, it can be seen in everything from the doorknobs to the cement floors to the furniture.
About Sophie Hong
Born in Taiwan, Sophie Hong graduated from the College of Design at Shih Chien University in Taipei in 1977. After graduation, she continued her studies in Tokyo, New York City, and Paris. Today, Sophie Hong’s designs grace catwalks in fashion shows around the world, and some of her pieces are held in permanent collection at the Palais Galliera, Musée de la Mode de la Ville de Paris. Hong also applies her considerable creative talent to paintings, sculptures, furniture, and metal and bamboo works. In 2010, she established Sophie Hong Paris, a flagship store, at the Palais Royal, and she is the owner of Taipei bookstore, the Librairie Le Pigeonnier. Hong is dedicated to promoting the exchange of Chinese and French cultures, and in 2012, she was honored with a French National Order of Merit.