Fashion's New Optimism: Hung La

His collection revolved around Rousseau's natural man theories, hence the repetitive monkey motif.

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Hung La, 30, Vietnamese American, Womenswear & Menswear

Where did you study and why did you decide to study there?
Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Belgium.  After studying at other fashion schools in New York and Milan, I wanted to explore my creative boundaries in a safe environment where I was not pushed to create something that would be “marketable” or “sellable”.

Which city do work in and for what reason?
I live in Antwerp and I am currently looking for a job in fashion.  I recently graduated and I have chose to stay here to help my girlfriend in her Masters year in fashion at the same school.  

What films/books/tv-programs/moments and stories inspire your design now?
Books:
What Is The Origin of Inequality Among Men, And Is It Authorized By Natural Law? by Jean Jacques Rousseau
King Solomon's Ring by Konrad Lorenz
Monkey Portraits by Jill Greenberg
Fuck’d and The Oracle by Tony Matelli
Movies:
Human Nature by Michel Gondry
Style Wars by Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant
Moments
My visit to Monkey Mountain in Alsace, France

In your own words describe your last collection.
In essence, the collection was an attempt to go back to our primitive past, to restore man to the natural forces of his natural process, to place him outside every opressing bond of society and the prejudices of civilization. I was focused on  the great divide between humans and animals.  Ultimately, I chose monkeys, our most immmediate animal brethren  as the representation of our simian past and to celebrate the true freedom that only animals today possess.  I dreamt of  a fantasy world based on what Nature could have lead to, a place where humans are honest, dynamic and expressive creatures. 
I wanted a quite playful expression of the human beast inside of us dying to jump out (but that is too scared from years of suppression). The commentary continued with my ideas of enlarged heads representing a caricaturization of primates as inherently good and playful creatures. This spirit continues with the sensory overload of color and prints inteding to be a childlike collage of mismatch items. The last element to this recipe was what I considered a contemporary street edge. I connected the primitive elements of old school hip hop to the essence of the Natural Man. For me, hip hop was essentially a scene borne from the urban street jungle that has always been a colorful expression focused on bringing people together.
I employed oversized masks to facilitate the transformation to my version of the Natural Man. The monkey is a reoccurring theme in my collection and can be seen all over the clothing as well as the masks worn on their heads. The simian imagery plays to our lowest common denominator, the idea that idiocy appeals to everybody, because everybody can relate to stupid things. For some reason most people associate funny and childish things to monkeys, maybe because monkeys are often seen as playing and laughing or maybe it is because children and monkeys have “similar” IQ levels.  Nevertheless, the man in my collection, which is in fact a monkey with a man inside, is my representation of the Natural Man that Rousseau dedicated so many discourses to. 
Consequently, “The Monkeys Made Me Do It” is my endeavour to bridge the gap between the Natural Man and modern man by proclaiming in order to be truly free we can learn something from our monkey past.

Describe the moment you realised you wanted to be a fashion designer?
I still don’t know whether fashion design is the path that I will choose. Fashion for me right now, is the medium for my creative expression, whether it stays that way or if it morphs into something else is still undecided.  There are many things in fashion that I both love and despise.   

Who is your all time fashion idol?

Andrea Cammarosano
would be another person who's a hero. The fashion he's created over the years, I don't really know it, but the fact that he's making it, I respect that.

In a sentence how would you describe your work/style?
My work/style is fun.   

From the recent S/S 09 shows, which shows were your favourite collections, and why?
To be honest with you I’m not one of those people who look at all the catwalk shows after fashion week. I respect what everybody in industry is doing, but I feel quite far away from all that right now.  

Which new designers do you respect and why?
I respect all those young designers who take the chance of creating something and putting their name on it.  The fashion industry seems like a difficult place, so I commend all those who are brave enough to create their own labels.   

If you could go back in time and experience any fashion moment, what would it be?
I think for me it would be interesting to go to a time before civilization where natural man was unburdened by the shackles of judgement or by the concept of property. I assume that is not a fashion moment though.  

If you could get any model/ anyone to wear your clothes, who would it be - who is your muse and why?
I have no idea.  I think anybody wearing my clothes is pretty cool.    

If you were to shoot your campaign and you could get your dream team of photographer, stylist, and model and do anything you wanted, who and what would it be?
I would just want to work with my friends who have been there to support me from the beginning.

Where do you see yourself/your label for A/W 09?
I hope that I can find a job with a nice working environment where I can continue to learn.  

Where do you see yourself/ your label for A/W 29?
Maybe I’m designing for real monkeys after the animal insurrection.    

Tell us any anecdotes about the making of your last collection.
Originally it was suppose to be a mixed collection of monkeys, men, women and children. 
I lost the ability to work with my hands for a week because they were covered in spray foam insulation.

If you weren’t a fashion designer what would you be?
Happy.
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