Ka Wa Key’s menswear fashions confront dichotomies between east and west, and between masculinity and femininity, using innovative handmade fabrics and textiles. Key graduated from London’s Royal College of Art in 2015 and hit the ground running with his transgressive designs.
He was a finalist in the 2016 H&M Design Award, and his spring/summer 2019 collection was showcased at the Double Je exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Influenced by the paintings of Monet and the photographs of Ryan McGinley, the collection portrays a sense of whimsy and beauty not usually found in menswear. His fabrics are reminiscent of an impressionist painting, with their light colours, finely crafted embroidery and layering, while the shapes and silhouettes draw from traditional Asian garments, differing greatly from the classic Western ideas of structure and form in menswear. With these flowing silhouettes, pastel palettes and intricately crafted fabrics that defy the utilitarian nature of most menswear, Key has positioned his work as a new paradigm in men’s fashion.
His spring/summer 2017 collection builds on this idea with more classic shapes, such as pocket T-shirts, slacks and jackets, stretched and warped to become loose, flowing interpretations fashioned from see-through, pastel-coloured mesh fabrics. Key has also brought this innovative vision to a number of collaborations, including his 2016 partnership with Eastpak. For the 40th anniversary of the Padded Pak’r Backpack, Eastpak commissioned Key to reimagine the well-known design. Key created an impressionist version by replacing cutouts of the original backpack material with his own handmade fabric, created from transfer printing and embroidery. The result, like many of his designs, is a fanciful take on a classic.