Harrison Wong’s Red Guard

Not many designers at this year’s Australian fashion week (MBFWA) could be said to be riffing on political themes. In fact it was probably just one: Harrison Wong. That fact alone set his collection apart from the masses, though it was also unique in style to the other menswear that the week bore witness to. Wong’s collection was a contemporary play on the Chinese Red Guard, those young cultural revolutionaries of the 1960s and ’70s.

Harrison Wong showed as part of the Hong Kong collective, a runway set of four labels showcasing design talent from Hong Kong. His own cultural heritage goes a long way to explaining the difference in inspiration, the difference in style: Australia’s own social and political history runs not as long or as deep and rarely gets a look in from domestic designers.

Wong’s show opened with a crackly recording of a Cultural Revolutionary song that sounded like a troupe of children melodically chanting in unison. To that began a march of male models dressed in military green and black, sometimes emblazoned with red star motifs, arms sheathed in red armbands. It wasn’t all-out military as some menswear seasons have known it, though; it flitted between tough streetwear (especially where accessories like studded belts and lace-up boots were concerned) and sharply tailored pieces. Perforated leather brought a sporty twist to bomber jackets and bikers.

The military palette gave way to outfits of pure black, but Wong kept the show thematic with pops of Red Guard red running right through. Seperate the red from both the khaki and the black, though, and what Wong offered up was a range of very wearable menswear pieces that don’t necessarily have to riff on anything political at all.

Besides, as Wong told me before the show, his main aim was to “have fun” with the theme in a contemporary way. And that’s exactly what he did.

You can see all of the Harrison Wong spring / summer 2012 runway collection by clicking on a thumbnail on the left. From there you can browse through each of the pictures from the fashion show.

Photography by Allan James Barger