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Designer Sebastien Kwok Explores Digital Identity in New Collection

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On March 18, rising Cantonese fashion designer Sebastien Kwok debuted his fall-winter collection titled Grey Garden at 1367 West Nanjing Road in Shanghai.

Inspired by the namesake documentary from 1975, the collection is a critical exploration of identity and authenticity in the social media era.

The fashion show was reminiscent of a glamorous underwater dream and saw models strutting on white sand with colorful lights gleaming against a deep blue background.

Kwok’s collection features bold futuristic silhouettes, contrasting materials, and skin-exposing geometric designs. By juxtaposing unconventional headpieces, latex, and traditional tailoring, the designer invites us to reflect on arbitrary notions of fashion, beauty, and identity.

“I critique the toxic internet persona by unpacking conventional notions of taste, sexuality, and other binaries. These notions refer to global phenomena unrestricted by geographical and cultural assumptions.”

What’s more, Grey Garden breaks gender boundaries. The collection feels androgynous and includes cropped jackets and low-rise trousers that could easily be worn by female and male models alike.

In the past few years, Chinese designers and celebrities have increasingly blurred the boundaries between the sexes, reflecting shifting notions of femininity and masculinity in the country.

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Designs from Sebastien Kwok’s fall-winter 2022 collection Grey Garden

The designer boasts an eclectic resume and a broad scope of experiences, ranging from working with the household name Alexander McQueen to exploring the fields of art and communication.

On this note, Kwok tells RADII, “(Everything) has totally broadened my horizon, taught me about how to communicate my ideas in my own way.”

His designs also reflect who, what or where he’s met, done or been.

“I take inspiration from a wide range of sources. They aren’t necessarily limited to specific geographical locations or cultures,” Kwok explains. “Surrounding myself with friends from the art and creative scene and not necessarily the fashion crowd has provided me with a different perspective of ideas, whether in Asia or Europe.”

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Designs from Sebastien Kwok’s fall-winter 2022 collection Grey Garden

Kwok’s designs are known for referencing Asian and Western haute couture and often nod to Japanese designers like Rei Kawakubo and Yoji Yamamoto. He is also partial toward ‘punk fabrics’ and the kind of embellishments that were dear to the late Alexander McQueen.

His low-rise mini skirts and pants are an ode to the Y2K aesthetic and 2000s fashion that China’s influencers and fashionistas have recently embraced.

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Designs from Sebastien Kwok’s fall-winter 2022 collection Grey Garden

Overall, Grey Garden feels inventive and in touch with the times. The collection is also redolent of the post-apocalyptic feel of Demna Vasalia’s Balenciaga and Prada and Miu Miu’s recent genderless silhouettes.

Kwok’s debut leaves us aching for more fashion-forward Chinese designs amidst the uncertainties surrounding the FW 22 Shanghai Fashion Week.

All images courtesy of Sebastien Kwok

Beatrice Tamagno
Beatrice is a graduate student in sociology at Fudan University in Shanghai. Her writings have appeared on SupChina and ChinaNauts, an online magazine she co-founded with fellow researchers from Fudan. When she is not researching gender in contemporary China, you will find her playing mahjong or binging Chinese TV shows.
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