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Fabio Piras  

MA Fashion Course Director Central Saint Martins United Kingdom

The greatest challenge facing Hong Kong youth's creativity is information overload, says the course director of a renowned fashion school in London.

Fabio Piras, director of the master's course in fashion at Central Saint Martins at the University of the Arts London, said that designs by Hong Kong students were "too perfect" compared with those made by their mainland counterparts.

"There are more interesting students from mainland China than Hong Kong," said Piras. "The level of work from mainland Chinese students is sometimes less processed ... they come with an approach that is much fresher.

"But [students from] Hong Kong are specifically trained in their understanding of fashion, so that's less interesting."

Piras said one's surrounding environment significantly affects creativity and that China's fashion industry is at a crucial moment - gradually moving away from being the factory of the world to hatching its own designs.

"Hong Kong is such a small environment. [Young people] are exposed to such an enormous amount of fashion products," he said. "In Hong Kong, there's a specific direction. Everything is super slick ... super groomed. Everything is like perfect ... It's very difficult for a young person to break it all down."

When it comes to what is the ideal environment for creativity, less is more, he said.

"If you come from an environment where there's nothing, or just beautiful trees, it's easier. You have too much information in Hong Kong," Piras said.

"You get students who have incredible fashion knowledge and are fashion-formed. They know everything that's happening and what's on the catwalk. But those students are not good designers. People who are less informed sometimes are freer."

Piras was in Hong Kong sitting on a judging panel for The Mills Pitch Day, the first fashion industry-focused incubation event organised by Nan Fung Group's self-financed creative cluster The Mills.

The event was held on Tuesday to kick off The Mills' incubation programmes to groom "tech-style" start-ups. The Mills is due to open in the firm's disused textile factory in Tsuen Wan in 2018.

Piras said the private sector played an important role in grooming creative talent, particularly in the fashion industry. He said private entities offered more energy, whereas public entities might not possess comparable knowledge and were hindered by bureaucracy in executing their ideas.

Piras said that despite the rising interest from the mainland in Central Saint Martins' fashion courses, the school had no plans at present to launch a fashion course outside of London.

Nor are plans afoot to boost its intake of Chinese students even though they would pay much higher fees than local students.

"We have 500-plus applicants for 50 places a year," he said of annual application figures.

"We have to say no to people we would have said yes to. It's about building a good mix of people."

"Fashion is part of an experience, part of where you are, at a particular place, and [Central Saint Martins] is a very particular place in a very particular city," he said.

"It would be misleading to open a fashion course elsewhere because we would only give them the name, not the experience ... Collaboration, however, can be investigated further."


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