With such a striking name, Viking Wong was always destined to stand out from the crowd and, after being listed by Vogue as one of the Top Twelve Designers to watch in 2011, it would seem as though Viking is successfully attracting a lot of positive attention. Despite only graduating from the London College of Fashion two years ago, the young designer has already made a remarkable impression on the fashion scene, having shown at the V&A and exhibited at both London and Paris Fashion Week.
Teaming structured tailoring with a dramatic monochrome palette, Viking’s pieces are powerfully aesthetic and aptly characterise his interpretation of the strong 21st century woman. Working unusual cuts with a sleek silhouette, his designs can be described as both androgynous and feminine, as well as bold and beautifully quirky.
I caught up with Viking at one of his exclusive exhibitions at Eight Club, where I discovered a talented and enthusiastic, yet level-headed designer who, I believe, is set for big things.
So, first question- forgive me for asking, but is your real name Viking Wong?
(laughs) I get that a lot, but yes, yes it is.
It’s quite a name- a brilliant name for a designer! So, when did you decide that you wanted to enter into this industry?
Basically, it was time for University and I just didn’t want to do anything else. I didn’t want to get a nine to five job and almost every other subject was basically that. My family are in the manufacturing garment business so I thought I would give it a try, and found out that I’m actually really good at it.
Your designs are very monochrome, very sleek, using a lot of lines; would you say that this is your signature style?
Yeah. I like playing with tailoring a lot, the cuts, the patterns- it’s where my strength is and, well, I’m actually really shit with colours (we laugh) so I play with shades of colours, but mainly use monochrome. I’m not really a big fan of bright coloured clothing, I think that it takes the attention away from the people.
Is it just women’s wear that you design, and if so, what is the reason for that choice?
Yes, just women’s wear. Simply because there is a whole lot more that you can do in women’s wear than you can in men’s wear. I won’t say that men’s wear is boring, but most people think of men’s wear and just think tailoring- it feels limited.
So where did you study?
I studied at London College of Fashion. It was a really good degree and I learnt a lot from it- that paired with all the internships that I have been on as well. I do think it’s imperative that people do get an education in whatever they want to focus on. It helps you learn the right skills, and it’s also like a self growth thing- you need to realise yourself. For fashion, everything can be quite vague, you need to know about the inspirations, about the culture, you need to know about a lot; that’s why I think education is important in whatever you want to do.
What is your proudest moment so far?
I would say that it was my graduation show (Viking laughs) but no, it should be my two page feature in Elle which they flew me over to Hong Kong to shoot. It was the first time I had been in a photo shoot myself with my clothes- I had all hair and makeup done, they made a really big fuss, it was really fun.
What inspires you? Anything in particular, a designer?
Yes, my favourite designers are Yohji Yamamoto, Chanel, Martin Margiela and Ann Demeulemeester. They are all sort of similar in a way, they influence one another. I am a strong believer in development; a design is actually a process- it’s a passion. People say that everything has been designed-that its all been done- it probably has but it’s the process and the development that makes that little tweak- and I think it’s more interesting to show the process than it is to show the outcome.
Have you ever collaborated with anyone- or is that something you would be interested in doing?
I’m actually really interested in that and I’m in talks with some people right at the moment so we will see how that goes- I won’t name names right now- they’re more targets really. I have collaborated with some of my friends back home- some really talented graphic designers and we made a collection of our own t-shirts and stuff.
What is your favourite piece in your own wardrobe and why?
Ummm, favourite thing? Probably… my jeans? (We laugh) That’s really bad isn’t it? But not just any jeans- the two way stretch jeans!
What’s your favourite thing about your job? Are there any negatives?
Negatives? Oh yes! (We laugh) Negatives: I don’t like the business side of things to be honest, right now its a really young label so I have to do everything myself. It’s a big job, I don’t care what anyone says, its a huge job. It’s not just designing, there’s production, manufacturing, press- theres a lot of stuff, its really hard to switch the mind set from the creative to business. For me thats really hard, although you do enjoy it when you make a sale- knowing you’ve done all of the work. The thing I enjoy most though is probably when everything is all finished, like when you’re at a shoot and you see for the first time your clothes on an actual model, that has to be what I love the most. I think that again its that whole process, cause you never know exactly how it will develop in the transition from the beginning to the end.
What are your plans for the future?
Well what with the recession, I’m probably just going to see how it goes. Obviously I would like to build it up and expand it and make it bigger, thats what I’m trying to do, but it is really hard at the moment. I’m trying to be creative on the business side to expand and keep it going, but ideally I would want to be getting more stock in, getting my name out there more and establishing myself.
What would you like to be remembered for as a designer?
Oh, no one has asked me that before… I’m not prepared for that! (laughs) Probably for the style, a legacy that people can recognise and appreciate the clothes that you make, that its you, that they want to buy it and wear it for a very long time. Thats what I would like, and also to possibly have a small influence on other people in the future as well.
Viking Wong offers custom made garments via his website.