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Feature: Toronto Men’s Fashion Week Emerging Menswear Design Award Finalist: Som Kong

Being inspired in studio

Being inspired in studio


Shining Stars

By: Tessa Johnson

Toronto, Canada


*As part of our ongoing focus on unique global perspectives, we are thrilled to be the Digital Media Sponsor for TOM* (the first annual Toronto Men’s Fashion Week) — the 8th one in the world. In that spirit of celebrating emerging Canadian talent, TOM* launched the we had the  EMDA –Emerging Menswear Design Award Competition.

“EMDA is part of the Designer Menswear Fund, in initiative with the Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI), to promote and nurture home grown talent and to inspire young designers to specialize in menswear. The grand prize winner will be selected from group of five finalists after they present their collections as part of TOM* grand finale runway presentation. Each collection will be scored based in visual appearance, style, brand communication and marketability. 

The 2014 EMDA winner will receive a cash prize of $10,000 towards their next collection, a spot-lighted show at next season’s TOM* and global recognition from the esteemed attendants of media, buyers and editors.–TOM*FW

In the next coming days we will be presenting you an exclusive series of Q&A with each of the finalists. We chat about inspiration, the world of fashion, the art of competition and of course their grand plans!


Toronto Men’s Fashion Week Emerging Menswear Design Award Finalist: Som Kong

Ryerson graduate Som Kong, was destined to become a designer and might not even known it. As one of the five finalist for the Emerging Menswear Designer Award at the inaugural, Toronto’s  Men’s Fashion Week,  we sat down with Som for a quick interview.


EMDA finalist, designer Som Kong part of Toronto Mens Fashion Week

EMDA finalist, designer Som Kong


When did you know wanted to become a designer?

I didn’t actually it wasn’t an option. I realized I wanted to become a photographer when I first took a picture of my parents hugging and that’s when I thought maybe I can pursue photography.

As I [was] taking photographs of models, I didn’t like the clothing they were wearing, interestingly enough my mom used to working for Levis when they were based in Hamilton, she was a seamstress [and] we had the resources [and access to] the industrial sewing machine and the supplies, [I] thought why not whip up a dress?  I was making darts before I even knew what darts were, at that moment I decided to transfer schools to take a basic sewing class, it turned out to be too basic [and] at the end of the year I met this one professor who became my second mother and just kind of mentored me, I don’t know why she did that but having that one person believe in me made a difference.


During your time at Ryerson what did you learn from your training?

Twenty-four hours is not enough in a day at Ryerson. With Ryerson it’s very technical, they teach you to produce clothing that’s very manufactural to very technical. Having done so much in little time is such a great experience because if it wasn’t for the exchange I would not be able to see both worlds.


Braille sweatshirt designed by Som Kong for Ryerson University's Mass Exodus Fashion Show

Braille sweatshirt designed by Som Kong for Ryerson University’s Mass Exodus Fashion Show


Finge knitting sweater presented as part of Ryerson University's Mass Exodus Fashion Show

Finge knitting sweater designed by Som Kong, as part of Ryerson University’s Mass Exodus Fashion Show



Third year students at Ryerson University apply in hopes to be selected to study abroad. Only few are chosen and Som was fortunate to do his exchange at the Polytechnic University in Hong Kong in addition to entering the Art of Fashion Competition in San Francisco.

“[In] Hong Kong they have a new perspective a completely different way of culture. They do something called 3-D draping where they take paper to drape on the mannequins while we use the traditional muslin. In Hong Kong they focus on the creative and push your creativity by using different techniques in cutting [and] new ways of manipulating. So for me to have both [skills] and find that medium it was such a valuable experience that Ryerson gave me.  I would not have been able to travel all over Asia if it wasn’t for Ryerson.


I read in an article that in your final year at Ryerson, you decided to redo your collection for Exodus, what happened?

Call it an epiphany actually, before creating this collection for my final year, I had this whole vision mapped out that I would just take the two pieces I showed at San Francisco and create a collection based on that. I was trying to make things easier for myself plus I knew what I was doing was very technical, very creative very intricate and it was just a lot of detail where I knew it was pleasing others, rather than pleasing myself.

When I went to San Francisco I did not get to place, but the fortunate thing was being there surrounded by all these individuals around the world everybody was so creative in their own way. I thought I was playing it safe for my collection and at that moment I needed to change paths.  When my professor told me no, it only motivated me to go further.


Another peice designed by Som Kong for Ryerson University's Mass Exodus Fashion Show

Another piece designed by Som Kong for Ryerson University’s Mass Exodus Fashion Show



And further he went, Kong decided to make a statement to illustrate his change by cutting off his hair; Kong says he calls it pulling a “Britney without the K-Fed.

“At that moment, as soon as that razor came I felt free, and I decided to do a line inspired by my memories what made me individually as a designer and how I am able to express designs through my emotions, trauma, happiness etc.”


Som Kong's studio

Som Kong’s studio


What is the inspiration behind your Spring/Summer 2015 line?

A month and half is not a lot of time, they say inspiration is very fluid. Inspiration not perspiration… I don’t believe that at all, not that it doesn’t come fluidly, but sometimes you have to go with inspiration with a club. I’ll be introducing a very sporty look.


How does it feel to be a finalist?

I remember when they were supposed to announce the date and it was delayed for a week, it was the most traumatizing week because in your gut you know you really want it bad. I was supposed to be in New York at the time, but with New York it was the novelty of going as supposed to having plans.

With Toronto, I find it’s emerging, it’s a great place to be; everything is happening so fast and developing and with Men’s fashion week to be in involved in this change, I feel it’s such a great opportunity. I’m excited, scared and it’s good to be scared because I’m nervous and nervous is good because it means you care.

But’s what’s more important, is I’m not doing it alone. I have this whole team…I have interns, but I don’t like calling them interns because I used to be an intern so they are part of my team with that being said I have team of designers, communications, branding, advertising etc., all working to together and this opportunity that TOM* is presenting, is our platform to show what we can do.


A Special Thank You from Som Kong: I would like to thank, Myles Sexton and Chantelle Winnie Harlow, for helping me embrace my VitiligoThank you Myles for embracing beauty in all aspects. I hope to one day fully embrace my Vitiligo and be that ambassador like Chantelle Winnie because beauty is courage, and courage is beautiful.


Black & white portrait of designer by J R Bernstein

Photography of his Mass Exodus Collection courtesy of Barbora Simkova


*Tessa is a freelance writer, obsessed with menswear fashion, women’s accessories and a clutch fanatic.  She currently writes web and print articles for ANOKHI Magazine 

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