For Australian-duo Fiona Lau and Kain Picken, naming their label ffiXXed wasn’t difficult. “We needed a name that could represent different things we wanted to do,” says Picken. “Something that had no real meaning, and ffiXXed is what we came up with.” The fashion/art collective – now into its fourth collection, surviving sustainability:__________, a Spring/Summer collection methodically constructed to suit our everyday needs (think pickpocket-proof pieces) – is busy preparing an exhibition (tentatively titled, Thanks for the Dinner and Sex) opening this month in Hong Kong’s fashion and design retailer, Kapok. While busy designing a limited edition dinner set for the show, Lau and Picken took the time to discuss their label and Lil’ Wayne. Continue…
Where did you two grow up?
Kain Picken: I spent my childhood and early teens in a remote mining town in Australia called Broken Hill, and moved to Melbourne when I was about 15. I was never really interested in fashion, but I was always concerned with aesthetics and the idea of personal style, even from a very young age.
Fiona Lau: I grew up in Kew, Melbourne, but my parents are from Hong Kong, so I was a total Asian nerd. I wanted to be an accountant or something typically boring and secure. I spent some time in Japan during high school and this kind of sparked my interest in fashion.
Fiona, you went to school at The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology for Fashion Design and Kain, you studied painting at The Victorian College of the Arts at the University of Melbourne. How did you two meet?
KP/FL: We met about five years ago through mutual friends in Melbourne, nothing special or exciting really. We became friends and things just developed from there. It wasn’t until after we moved to Berlin that we started exchanging ideas and eventually working together.
You both reside in Shenzhen, China, but previously ran studios out of New York, Berlin and Hong Kong. What made you choose Shenzhen?
KP: We relocated our studio to Shenzhen for several reasons. Firstly, we wanted to establish a new kind of space, to create a kind of living and working situation where we could experiment with creating our own form of personalized production, and Shenzhen is the perfect place to do this. Apart from access to industry and materials, there really is the feeling you can do anything here. While living in Hong Kong, we spent some time here and knew some people we could work with. As well, Fiona’s father lives in Shenzhen, so there’s this family connection, which is really important to us. Almost everyone we work with is connected through family or friends, so there’s a certain closeness.
Favorite places in Shenzhen?
KP/FL: Generally we spend most of our time in the studio, but when we have time off we like to go to an area called OCT, which stands for Overseas Chinese Town. This area was created to encourage Chinese people who were living and working abroad to return to China, in some ways it’s kind of an enhanced environment. It’s quite nice with many trees. One area called Portofino is made to look like little Italy; it’s quite funny. Another part of OCT is developed by a firm called Urbanus. There are a lot of architecture and design studios, and it’s also where Kenneth Ko – who is an amazing interior designer from Hong Kong – has his studio. Apart from being a prolific designer, he’s an avid bodybuilder. Under his office is a giant gym designed in his signature style. We’re really obsessed with him actually! There was a book of softcore photos of him semi-naked, but the Chinese government banned it.
Fittingly, Shenzhen is dubbed, “The City of Ambition,” which suits ffiXXed perfectly. Over the course of your two-year label, the company has accomplished a roster of projects: an ongoing bi-seasonal ready-to-wear collection to curating and exhibiting in Australia, Europe and China. How did ffiXXed come about being a fashion and art collective?
KP/FL: ffiXXed was born out of a certain situation that developed in Berlin. We had started making clothing and objects together and liked the energy that came from this. We wanted to make the creative and personal aspects of our lives more integrated and more cohesive. ffiXXed became the framework, which making it a fashion/art collective (or whatever it is) meant that we could be more open and more inclusive.
Spring/Summer 2011, surviving sustainability:_____________, can you discuss this collection?
KP/FL: We always begin by making things that respond to our everyday living situations, which by the way are always changing. So adaptability is something that is important to us. This was the first collection we designed from our Shenzhen studio, and it was also part of a larger project that we were undertaking for a design festival in Melbourne. For us, this whole project was a way to think about different approaches to the idea of sustainable living, what this means in relation to social, cultural, political and environmental contexts.
Can you talk about the artist collaborations in your collections, such as Spring/Summer 2011 with Ester Partegas and Autumn/Winter 2010 with James Deutsher.
KP/FL: The A/W 2010 collaboration came from a close working relationship with James, who is a permanent ffiXXed collaborator. We were all in Shenzhen (working out of Kenneth Ko’s Café at OCT actually) and felt a connection between James’ recent show and what we were doing at the time. Using an installation image of his work, as a print, was a very direct way to acknowledge this. We really enjoyed the process and wanted to work again with an artist to produce prints; someone who we’d like to work with, who’s work could extend to the ideas of surviving sustainability:_____________. We had just spent some time with Ester in New York. We’re really big fans of both her and her work. Ester was really enthusiastic and generous, after some discussions she sent us these huge collages, which she was working on for her show at Christopher Grimes Gallery. They were so beautiful! We decided to print them full size and cut one style from each print.
Which artist are you collaborating with next or would love to collaborate with? Perhaps, the next series of prints will be made by Kain?
FL: There are a few artist collaborations in the works right now, but we’re conscious not to let this become a formula. However, we did just work with James to make a beautiful hand printed silk scarf. It’s dyed with roses, mangosteens, blueberries and green tea, with notes written in Biro by the artist. It’s funny that you should mention the idea of Kain making something for ffiXXed, it’s an idea we’re always thinking about. Kain’s art practice and ffiXXed are completely different, but at the same time they completely consume one another.
What can we expect for Autumn/Winter 2011?
KP/FL: Chunky hand knits, minimal basics and transeasonal classics.
If you could choose, who would be the face of ffiXXed? I read you mentioned Jeremy Irons and Lil’ Wayne – still stands? (Lil’ Wayne would be amazing.)
KP: We would die to see Weezy in some ffiXXed! Fiona also wants to send a package to Jeremy Irons’ castle in Ireland; she has the address – seriously! But at the moment our friend and model Chris, who lives in Hong Kong, is doing a pretty good job. She’s amazing!
Studio images courtesy of Kain Picken and featured image from the Spring/Summer 2011 collection courtesy of ffixxed.com.