Singapore Fashion Design Student Finds Inspiration in Back Streets of Sham Shui Po

Culture Wars

The garment supply shops lining the gritty streets of Kowloon’s Sham Shui Po district provide more than resources for fashion design students at SCAD Hong Kong. They also supply endless yards of inspiration!

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Dawn Bey, a fashion design student at SCAD Hong Kong shows off a fabric she sourced in Hong Kong and had printed in China. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

Dawn Bey is in her senior year at SCAD Hong Kong, where she is majoring in Fashion Design. She will graduate in June 2016.

Dawn did her first degree in Singapore, where she got a Bachelor of Business Administration at the National University of Singapore.

When Dawn decided to further her studies in fashion design, she explored the options available to her and settled on the Hong Kong campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

“Creatively Singapore was a bit stifling because I knew the city so well,” Dawn says.

“I wanted to go somewhere new. I wanted to get into the Chinese market. I wanted to be close to Singapore. This was a U.S. based institution. So there was everything I wanted in one place!”

So why the move from business to fashion design?


Fashion design major Dawn Bey hard at work in a classroom at SCAD Hong Kong. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

“I always wanted to do fashion, but my parents wanted me to have a back-up plan,” Dawn says.

SCAD is a non-profit accredited institution, which awards bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art and design.

SCAD prepares students for professional careers in such fields as advertising, animation, fashion, graphic design, interior design – the list goes on.

If Dawn was attracted by SCAD’s faculty, reputation, and programmes of study, she has gotten more than she bargained for: the institution’s stimulating (if unorthodox) location.

Garment District

In decades past, Sham Shui Po was home to hundreds of small garment factories, which manufactured clothing for brand names on an OEM basis.

Slowly manufacturing moved north of the border, where land was cheap and plentiful, and labour costs were low.

Many of the small shops that supplied fabrics and clothing accessories to these manufacturers, however, remain.

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Within a roughly 25-square-block area just blocks  from campus is a myriad array of shops selling fabric, thread, buttons, and plastics as well as outlets specializing in denim, lace, and zippers.

Some of the shops also have equipment that a small business couldn’t afford to buy. Best of all, most of the shops accept small orders, making them a perfect resource for students – and aspiring entrepreneurs.


Fashion design major Dawn Bey of Singapore shows off what can be sourced in the streets of Sham Shui Po. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

“There are so many businesses in Sham Shui Po that help you along the way in your creative process,” Dawn says.

Sometimes Dawn has an idea what she wants – let’s say purple and pink, for example.

“I will find so many options,” she says.

“There are far more choices than in Singapore – different sizes and different levels of stretchiness.”

If  Dawn knows exactly what she wants, it might take her two or three hours to find it. When she is looking for creative inspiration, however, she might spend the entire day roaming the streets of Sham Shui Po.

Not only is the selection more extensive than in Singapore, prices are also about one-fifth what they would be in Singapore, Dawn estimates.

Fashion Show

Dawn is among the first cohort of students to complete the four-year programme in Fashion Design at SCAD Hong Kong.

Each one of the students in the programme is working on a final project, which will comprise a collection of six looks.

The collections will be presented in a fashion show at the end of the term in June in Central on Hong Kong Island.

Dawn’s collection will have three dresses, two pairs of pants, two coats, two bras, and one vest.

Called “Acid Bloom”, Dawn’s collection was inspired by an orchid. It is targeted at the modern woman.Its colour scheme, in case you hadn’t guessed, is purple and pink.


Fashion design student Daw Bey shows off ‘Acid Bloom’, her final project at SCAD Hong Kong.

While all of Dawn’s materials were sourced in Hong Kong, she had them printed in China, where costs were 50% lower. Finishing touches were added by Dawn in Hong Kong.

Following graduation, Dawn plans to return to Singapore, where she hopes to commercialize her collection.

And she will look for a job, hopefully doing something creative such as pattern making, which involves lots of draping on a mannequin rather than working in a factory.

After taking a well-deserved rest, of course …  The hours in Hong Kong have been long, but stimulating.

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