KPU Wilson School of Design - Ho-Chi Huang of VERT

Runway Images by Peter Jensen

On April 19, 2018, I was honoured to be invited to view KPU Wilson School of Design's 2018 The Show, a showcase of collections from the 31 students graduating from their fashion design program.

In addition to a show overview HERE, I selected a few student grads to offer solo interviews with. Each stood out in their own way.

Today's interview is with Ho-Ching Huang of Vert.  What drew me to her collection was the strong design work, great proportions and perfect tailoring she included in her hi-tech menswear looks. I know many athletic men that would wear these pieces in an instant


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Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Taiwan, and grew up in a big family with 3 elder sisters.

What you like when you were young?

When I was a little girl, I often thought about being a fashion designer. I loved to sketch clothes on paper and drape fabric on Barbie dolls. I felt very strongly about fashion trends and customs, and I could spend a whole day in the museum looking at garments from different eras. To me they’re art, and make statements about different time periods and personality traits. 

What were your interests in High School?

During my adolescence, I felt even stronger about fashion design and started to make my own clothes, mostly just by adding and altering decorative aspects. Beside my fashion interests, I also spent a lot of time around seniors, keeping them company. I liked listening to their stories and helped them by running errands. I felt empathy for those who were not being taken care of by their own their own children. I felt the same with veterans who fought in the War and had no family to care for them in old age. 

Talk about when and how you decided to study fashion design. Was your family supportive?

Looking back, I knew I wasn’t a book smart person in school, even though I tried to study hard in Taiwan. For example, I went to school at 8 am, finished class at 9pm and studied until 2 am every weekday. Luckily, I could sleep in on weekends, but I still would barely pass exams. Also, I felt exams-oriented education wasn’t suitable for me. I didn’t like memorizing subjects and often did not fully understand what was being taught.

My family loved to travel and have always encouraged me to experience new things and open myself up to the world. When I was in high school, my mother asked me if I want to study aboard and what I wanted to do for my major.

I knew I was good in art and had often thought about being a fashion designer since I was young. With my mother’s support, I soon decided to follow my dream to become a fashion designer after high school. I came to Vancouver when I was 18, I had no relatives here and couldn’t speak English at all. I was a naïve young woman, with plenty of courage at that time. The reason I chose Canada, was because I wanted to stay in a multicultural society instead of fully adapting to a new culture, and Canadians are more friendly than those in other English-speaking countries.

I started my post-secondary education at VCC’s ESL center, and was a beginning English student. At that time, the vocabulary I knew I could count on my 10 fingers. I needed my Chinese-English dictionary wherever I went. However, I met many friends who were international students like me. We helped each other and experienced Canadian’s culture together.

It took me one and half years to complete my grade 12 English, but I still couldn’t obtain a B grade on my writing, which was required to get in the degree fashion program at KPU. So I enrolled in a 2-year Diploma program in fashion arts design at VCC. It was challenging for me to understand everything in class, and be able to express myself clearly in English; however, I struggled really hard to blend in and complete my diploma. 

Why did you choose to study in the program at KPU Wilson School of Design?

After my college graduation, I had been working in the fashion industry for over five years before I had a chance to go back to University. In 2016, I decided to pursue my degree in Fashion and Technology at KPU while still working as contractor for some Vancouver base apparel companies. Coming back to school as a mature industry student was a life changing experience. However, I’m glad to have the opportunity to upgrade my skills with the newest technologies, machinery, and expand my knowledge in technical outerwear. Most importantly, I was glad to fulfill my dream of completing a degree. Not earning a degree had bothered me and my family for a long time, both consciously and unconsciously.

Talk about your time studying Fashion Design. What was hard for you? What was easy for you? Are they any high, low or funny moments you can share?

I really enjoyed my time studying fashion design and loved all design aspects from concept, product development, testing to set final specifications and runway presentation. I have a strong, unending curiosity for investigating design problems and I’m eager to solve them, in feasible way. Also, I try to push myself further, to improve and refine my designs until there is no time left.

In life, I constantly strive to become a better fashion designer, one who is knowledgeable in both creative and business aspects. I understand it’s not enough for designers to be just creative; we also have to have business sense and understand the mechanics behind it. However, it’s a hard road. Designers need physical and mental stamina and must be absolutely, passionately in love with what they are doing.

Sometimes it’s tough. There was one point where I felt really low, with no energy and passion left in me, with endless working hours and tight deadlines. I just kept telling myself to stay true to my design ethics and try to be different. I don’t follow the trends and believe in what I do, I have a big dream and take small steps. 

What was the inspiration for your grad collection? Share anything you'd like readers to know?

My inspiration came from military attire and veterans who fought from the post-world war 2. I have a strong connection with them and feel great empathy for what they have experienced; as well as, appreciation for their efforts and sacrifice which lead to peace for their descendants and the generations to come.

I incorporated many military elements into my designs such as a military vest, straps buckles, functional and oversized pockets, hoods and ergonomic cuts with a more modern take.

Describe your collection.

My Vert collection caters to sustainable commuters who are shifting their daily commute from cars to more sustainable transport modes like public transit, walking and biking. Vert is specifically tailored to harmonize and balance modern esthetics with high-performance men’s fashion clothing. It offers a new dimension of freedom with functional, masculine, and urban tailoring. I used high-tech, and durable fabrics to protect wearers from different weather conditions, keeping body temperatures regulated while still looking stylish in natural and simple ways for the urban vibe. Innovative fabric choices are combined with ergonomic, articulated and unencumbered, providing great range of motion.

What is the palette? What fabrics did you use?

My color palates were inspired by camouflage pattern with more warm color such as tan, olive green, soft olive, brown, black and white. I used many innovative fabrics in my collection to encourage layering of the garments such as Merino wool as base layer that provides excellent temperature regulation, recycled Chitosante fabric that has anti-bacterial, wicking, UPF50 and DWR features, soft-shell windproof, waterproof and breathable fabric, high-performance 4 ways stretch with DWR finishes, and Gore-tex. 

Do you have a favourite look?

My favorite look is the all-day comfort outfits with Cebu blazer, Tim pant and Kuru top.

This blazer and pant combination is made of an innovative 4-way stretch fabric, and is highly articulated at joints for comfort and mobility. Both use water resistant fabrics that are additionally treated with a durable water repellent. The blazer uses a breathable mesh backing for ventilation and features low profile laser cut pockets to store mobiles or transit passes, and it also has an interior cross body strap as a shoulder carry option.

The Merino wool Base layer top has a thumb-hole detail that helps prevent sleeves from slipping and bunching while holding rails or straps on train and bus rides. They cover wearers palm and back hand keeping them warm. Overall, this look is modern but still has a technical and functional yet pragmatic purpose.

What do you think you can bring to the fashion world that is new?

I’ve come a long way from where I began my fashion journey. I strive for my designs to be unique and expressive in some way others appreciate.

I believe our life metaphors influence us more than we realize, and I don’t see this expressed in fashion. Our world views determine our expectations, our value, our relationship, our goals and priorities. I try to express this in all my designs. They have meaning, form and function. 

Where do you go from here – are you going to work for others for awhile, launch your own line, take a break and travel?

I was invited and showcased my first collection at Vancouver Fashion Week and launched my own brand” Ho-Chi” in 2011, after I finished my college diploma at VCC. I designed and custom made cocktail outfits for my customers in the beginning, then created a couple collections and focused on women’s ready to wear clothing. While creating my own designs, I also work for other apparel companies, creating patterns, illusions and assisting production processes.

In 2018, inspired by my apparel industry experience, I fell in love with highly functional, innovative and technical garments for menswear. For now, I’d like to produce a few designs from my VERT collection and have them ready to sell on my online store by next year along with my new womenswear. In the meanwhile, I’ll continue to work for other apparel companies and gain more industry experiences; as well as expend my connections and become a more mature designer.

Please share a quote on what fashion design means to you?

To me, “fashion design is about the expression of inward and outward beauty, with form and function” 

Anything else I didn't ask you want mentioned?

My mentor always encourages me and says” Don’t let fear and minor obstacles stop you from doing the things you love.” This is a lifelong lesson I have been working on for a while, and I would like to share it with others.

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