SHEK LEUNG is a trailblazing new fashion brand that recently introduced ACT 1: GENTLE LIVING during the London Fashion Week. We had the opportunity to talk with Samson Shek Yen Leung, the fashion designer who has brought to life his eponymous London-based fashion studio.
In this conversation, you will find out how Samson Shek Yen Leung opened his heart to tell us more about all the emotions, experiences, ideas, and sensations that involved the creating process of this collection; and I assure you that we evoke all of them with every one of its pieces.
Welcome to this SHEK LEUNG experience.
Samson Shek Yen Leung | Exclusive Interview
VT: What are the values of SHEK LEUNG, and how do you represent them in every piece?
SSYL: Honest, quiet, and tactile. My brand, SHEK LEUNG, is an eponymous label derived from my Chinese name, which means “honest” and “grounded.”
Often, I describe my work as “quiet masculinity,” imagining that the handcrafted elements in my pieces express a sense of discreet sensuality that is poetic and subtle. My creations are not about being loud, flashy, and extravagant; instead, I focus on evoking and celebrating emotions that my audience can relate to.
VT: How has been the experience of being part of the London Fashion Week?
SSYL: When I got notified that I was part of London Fashion Week, I was very excited but anxious, as it was only weeks before the show.
Working with the team behind it has been great as they were super supportive and involved with any help we needed. Additionally, it was a collaboration with TONI & GUY. Being able to collaborate with them was such a great beginning to my first step in the industry after graduation last year. I was really happy and grateful that they were part of the first step of my journey.
Bringing strength and confidence to quiet hearts
VT: While watching the presentation of GENTLE LIVING, your newest collection, I felt a sense of evoking the beauty that lies in imperfection and vulnerabilities. Nevertheless, how do you define this SS22 ACT 1: GENTLE LIVING collection?
SSYL: SHEK LEUNG’s debut collection, GENTLE LIVING, seeks comfort in the sense of unease, embracing vulnerability and capturing loneliness as a form of energy. Silence can unintentionally exude some unpleasant energy and can be misinterpreted as weakness from a masculine perspective.
What fascinates me is that being silent and serenity can be so powerful, peaceful yet daunting, and fragile. This collection hopes to bring the quiet hearts’ strength and confidence to light by presenting a touch of subtle sensuality in the conventional masculine world.
Heavily inspired by my self-directed films and fine art, specifically Vilhelm Hammershøi’s paintings, this collection embodies my interpretation of quiet masculinity amongst men – including myself and many others.
This interpretation is presented in the form of landscape painting, which in traditional Chinese fine art is how one expresses oneself. Instead of canvas, I painted on my self-developed fabric and textures in the collection.
VT: You have stated that this collection has been made in the memory of your father. Could you share with us more about it?
SSYL: Unfortunately, my father passed away during COVID-19; the collection and the film were a homage to him. He, himself, is a quiet man as well. He was a film director but, over the years, despite growing up on film sets as a kid, I never actually showed interest in film(making) until I was studying fashion at Central Saint Martins.
Today it becomes part of my design process to visualize my abstract fashion narrative.
My brand itself grows out of both my family, specifically my father, and my personal love of storytelling through moving images. I hope to continue his legacy through my own self-directed films and my passion for handmade craftsmanship.
I hope he is proud of me.
VT: I assume that wanting to present totally hand-made or handcrafted pieces was quite a challenge. Why did you decide to follow that creative direction? And how do you feel now that the collection as you conceived has been presented?
SSYL: Creating handcrafted and hand-made pieces was always engrave in my personal identity. It is the subtle details like that which make my pieces special.
As a designer, my personal goal is to elevate the standard of Asian craftsmanship and talents. As I highly value craftsmanship in fashion, I want to continue to work with various creative disciplines, particularly within the Asian community (but not limited to), to enhance the quality of our crafts.
Now that the collection is presented, I’m trying to educate my audience and buyers on the importance of my subtle craftsmanship. As these tactile details can be lost easily through watching the fashion film and look book on a laptop screen, I hope it inspires people.
VT: In your collection, there is ‘the rock’, an unusual element that we see as part of the campaign. Would you like to tell us the importance of this element in GENTLE LIVING?
SSYL: My collection is a self-portraiture. This self-portraiture, expressed in the form of a landscape painting, is in line with traditional Chinese fine art, in which one expresses themselves through the painting of a landscape, which is different from western self-portraitures such as Vincent Van Gogh’s or Matisse’s.
In my development process, I documented people’s aura and energy as various forms of rocks. I imagined the weight on you can be as big as a rock and yet light as a feather. It’s the stillness that radiance within you. Hence ‘the rock’ look in the collection.
VT: How about the fabrics, materials, and techniques you chose to use in the collection?
SSYL: As SHEK LEUNG values craftsmanships highly, this collection involves a lot of development of handmade details. In the signature handmade cover-stitch fabric, by scrutinizing colour combinations derived from cinematic noise grains from his self-directed research film, SHEK LEUNG invented a cover-stitch fabric made completely from scratch.
By reassembling the order in which different colours appear and alternating the colour of the thread, this material gave birth to my bespoke creation.
Additionally, the handmade staples on each piece were created as a decorative element for the snap closures to give the illusion of being ‘stapled’ together when the snaps are closed.
Lastly, some of the pieces involved using an airbrush to engineer the colour, to create a touch of softness in my collection.
VT: I must tell you that I love the original music you use in the presentation of GENTLE LIVING. What can you tell us about it and your collaboration with Olivier Cong?
SSYL: I met Olivier through a friend of mine when the collection is close to finishing. We never actually met in person, as he is based in Hong Kong and I’m in London. But we made this collaboration works on such short notice.
He is an amazing composer and musician that I feel very underrated by his industry. We instantly click and share a similar taste and understanding of music through emotions. It is the emotions that brought our collaboration together.
You can listen to his original soundtracks on Spotify!
VT: Which advice would you like to share with those young people who would like to pursue a career and fashion and want to stay faithful to their roots?
SSYL: Stay faithful and believe in your own vision. Your life experience is what makes you a designer different from others.
VT: Anything else you would like to share with Vanity Teen?
SSYL: At the moment, I’m doing the brand alone. So I’m still taking it slow and learning how to run a business. By the end of the year, I hope I can set up my online shop. Additionally, I hope to work and collaborate with other creatives.
Currently, I’m just trying to get my work out there to more people and hopefully celebrities that appreciate the subtle craftsmanship in my creation. I am taking private orders and custom-made pieces via DM on Instagram if anyone’s interested!
Creative Direction: SHEK LEUNG (@_shekleung)
Photo: Kenneth Lam (@kenlams)
Art Direction: Bryan Lee (@bryan.lee.kh)
MuA Daeun Jung (@jungdaeun_mua)
Hair: Elle Page (@ellepage__) at TONI&GUY
Photo Assist: Milly Cope (@millycope)
Studio SHEK LEUNG:
Knit: Sean-Henry Fitzsimons (@theonlyseaenhenry)
AW20 Handmade Shoes: Doyeon Ji (@doy.official)
With the support from:
Before we go
SHEK LEUNG is a fashion brand that elicits honesty and transcends the beauty of fragility by redefining masculinity with its values.
Its fashion designer, Samson Shek Yen Leung, has given us a message that I hope we could keep spreading from now on: let us use our experiences to trace the path that releases our creativity and make us unique.
Let us keep living gently.