Fiona Lau and Kain Picken, designers of ffiXXed

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The Hong Kong fashion couple of Fiona Lau and Kain Picken may well be on the verge of something really big. The duo and their boutique label ffiXXed has just been nominated for the prestigious International Woolmark Prize Awards, one of only two Hong Kong representatives in the global shortlist of 50 looking to follow in the footsteps of renowned previous winners like Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint Laurent and Giorgio Armani. Yes, it's somewhat of a big deal.

Apart from the IWPA – which focuses on collections made exclusively out of wool – 27-year-old Lau and 32-year-old Picken are busy with their Spring/Summer 2014 collection, as well as a host of collaborations, which have come thick and fast since ffiXXed launched back in 2008. With their clothes now carried in 13 different countries, Time Out chats with Lau and Picken at the Fringe Club to find out their reaction to the nomination and their plan to meet the upcoming challenges.

How excited are you to be nominated for the prize?
Lau: [Laughs] I'm really excited!
Picken: Actually, after watching the documentary about the past competition, a little bit more nervous than before. We are going to have to re-work a few things and try different designs.
L: We're working on this prize, new spring/summer developments with this design studio in Portugal called Colönia and also a project with a New York artist who's coming here for Art Basel. It's exciting and stressful all at the same time.

Are you guys regular users of wool?
P: We use wool in all of our collections.
L: Actually we mainly only use natural fibres, so wool is great.
P: And last summer we did a lot of hand knitting.

How important is using sustainable fabrics materials to both of you?
P: It was very important to us from the beginning.
L: We have a sustainable practice with our in-house studio to make it a positive experience for everyone, to treat everyone really well and have really good working conditions.
P: We want to do low quantity, high quality production and do it in an ethically and environmentally sound way.

What is your design aesthetic?
P: I would say we try to enhance everyday basics.
L: Comfort is also a big part of it.

How would you describe your regular work process?
L: I would say not very pre-planned, not very linear.

Can you give us a bit of your background and history together?
L: We originally grew up in Australia. While Kain was studying at art school, we met each other through mutual friends. Then we started dating. It's funny; a lot of people don't know we are a couple. It took a year before our agent asked me if I had a boyfriend and I was like... yeah, it's Kain! People are surprised because they think he's gay. Eventually we moved to Berlin. I was doing an internship, working under a designer while making things alongside with Kain.
P: Eventually we decided we wanted to start a fashion label together. That's when we moved to Hong Kong back in 2009.

Why did you choose Hong Kong?
L: Because Hong Kong has so many resources for fabric and skills and everything. It's also so much easier to be based here than commuting back and forth between here and Europe, or wherever.
P: Space can be a problem, which is why our studio is located in Shenzhen.
L: It's like a four-level house in the countryside, at the bottom of the mountains, it's quite beautiful, with a team of about 10 people who are couples and stuff, husbands and wives, brothers and stuff. It's a really intimate family.

How are you influenced and inspired by the city?
L: You might see it in the little details, like the colours, or referencing some everyday materials.
P: Also just the rhythm of being in the city day to day.
L: Or just the lifestyle. Like our mosquito net hat.

Mosquitoes here run rampant! That seems like a wonderful idea.
L: Yeah! It's nothing too direct, but it's generally influenced from living here.

What are you plans for the future?
L: We are still doing projects and exhibitions in Australia, so we have some presence everywhere. We did some exhibitions in New York, and all this helps with getting more and more presence.
P: That's basically what we are working towards in the future – to get more people to know about our brand and to collaborate more.

Interview by Arthur Tam

ffiXXed ffixxed.com

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