Dynasti: the brand combining traditional Chinese styles and modern subcultures
20 Oct 2016
Dynasti clothing is the brainchild of founders Ice and Koleman, who draw on their experiences as inspiration for their designs. They combine traditional Chinese styles and modern subcultures, as well as alternative scenes and trends like Health Goth.
I first met designer Ice Bing at a photography exhibition in Hong Kong, the city where I did my year abroad. Ice’s look is distinctive. Stood beside her business partner and friend, Koleman, Ice wore a pastel-pink bomber jacket, bold clothing, and green hair to match. I had gone to the art exhibition with a group of friends in an attempt to get to know some of the art scene in Hong Kong, and to get a couple free glasses of champagne in before our night out. Maybe it was all the champagne, but I decided to strike up a conversation with Ice and Koleman, and found out that they had been working on their own clothing company, Dynasti, in an attempt to “create something new”.
As the night went on, Ice and Koleman joined my friends and I, hitting up some bars in Hong Kong. Luckily this wasn’t the last time we met as the art scene in Hong Kong is quite small, and at art openings you will regularly bump into the same people again and again (perhaps lured in by the free champers!) Upon hearing more of their stories, I knew we had to work with each other in some way whilst I was still in Hong Kong. A week before I was due to return to London, I caught up with Ice for an interview and photo shoot.
In an attempt “to raise consciousness to [their] mother culture”, I shot the portraits of Ice in one of Hong Kong’s most famous estates. As Ice draws much of her inspiration from “Chinese heritage” and buildings, the location was a perfect combination of the city’s architecture, culture, instagramableness and a complementary colour palette to work with Ice’s outfit. The photos from the shoot capture Ice’s unique style, clad in her own creations from Dynasti’s latest collection.
“Chinese [people] have a really beautiful cultural background, like the painting and history is all so inspiring. So we want to spread Chinese culture so that this generation can know more about it.”
Behind the brand’s strong design is the desire to create something unique to Hong Kong and China, as Ice believes that they lack their “own style”. Ice elaborates on her motivation; “Chinese [people] have a really beautiful cultural background, like the painting and history is all so inspiring. So we want to spread Chinese culture so that this generation can know more about it.”
Discussing the difficulties of creating a brand and being a creative woman in Hong Kong, Ice remarks that “it’s not easy. It’s really hard”. This has meant the duo have used the internet to promote their business quite a lot. Although, Hong Kong is considered Asia’s “world city”, Ice tells me it remains somewhat rigid when it comes to creativity. “Hong Kong is still not so open to certain kinds of ideas. Hong Kong, you can see, is quite commercial, even in the fashion industry”.
Social media, particuarly Instagram, has helped to connect Dynasti to the world beyond Hong Kong. “Instagram is our inspiration”, Ice explains, “you can find the most up-to-date channel in the world because you know the younger generation all use Instagram. You can know what they like very quickly.”
Dynasti has become more popular abroad than in Hong Kong, with fans hailing from the UK, the US and Germany. When discussing the commercialised nature of Hong Kong, and the lack of support from local Hong Kongers, Ice remarks, “We don’t feel a sense of belonging in this city. We’ve had our brand for so long, but we don’t think the locals really support us. We’ve had so many difficulties here. But then we got more supporters worldwide…”
If you have colourful hair and tattoos and wear less clothing, they already think you are a bad girl. You know, I’m totally out of the beauty standard of my city and even country.
We also discuss the inequality of beauty standards in the city. Although Ice believes Hong Kong is fair for women, she recognises that the standards of beauty are alienating and make her unhappy. “The stereotype of beauty in Hong Kong is like big eyes, tall nose, small mouth, small face, very white skin and also big boobs and long legs. If you have colourful hair and tattoos and wear less clothing, they already think you are a bad girl. You know, I’m totally out of the beauty standard of my city and even country. Whenever I travel between Hong Kong and China, the police at the border always search my stuff…every time. If you meet the beauty standards you have more luck with everything like jobs, and relationships.”
Despite all of this, Dynasti has been booming and is becoming an international fashion label. In the future Ice hopes to move to another city, one where she could feel a stronger connection both for her work and her identity. “We wanted to move to somewhere else. Somewhere that we can feel the sense of belonging in that city, and where people will support us more and our business can grow better in. We’re thinking about New York or LA, or possibly London. These three cities are our priority, so now we’re working hard to save up so we can move somewhere else.”
This is the unfortunate reality for many creatives in Hong Kong, who feel limited by the commercialisation of these industries, alienating those who fall outside the norm. For Ice, creativity is her life, and she loves doing it. Although she acknowledges her inexperience with the business side of things, creativity is the main driving force of Dynasti. “Creation is our passion. It’s something that we like and something that we want to do – something that makes me feel like it’s worth living. If I don’t do something creative every day, I feel like I don’t know what my goal or what my aim to live is.”
So for now Ice and Dynasti will keep creating, and paving a way for new forms of fashion and creativity in Hong Kong and China, whilst also pushing her new YouTube videos which use Dynasti’s fashion to promote Chinese culture and language (is there anything she can’t do?)