Prudence Mak

Prudence Mak

21 June, 2012
Recycled patchwork goes global
Creator, Chocolate Rain
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With its wonderfully colourful jumble of used toys all stuck together in a pile above the entrance, the Chocolate Rain store on Elgin St in Central, Hong Kong is easy to spot from a distance. As a well-known icon in the design world in Hong Kong, the label has grown beyond handmade accessories and Chocolate Rain has had numerous artistic collaborations with famous names such as Stella McCartney, Levi’s and Luella. We talk to Prudence Mak, the woman behind the famous Fatina doll of Chocolate Rain.
 
Ecozine: How did Chocolate Rain grow from a small Hong Kong shop to such as well-known icon, around the world and especially in major design centres such as England?
 
Prudence: It has taken 9 years to grow. I wanted to create my own style but I found my advertising job quite boring, so I decided to use my own savings and in a 100ft. space in a building that was not in the best of conditions to say the least, I created this label. I then moved to an upper floor shop in Kowloon, and then when SARS drove prices down, I was finally able to afford this location in Central. I created art classes a number of years ago because seeing is believing and I wanted to show people that I create everything myself. Students in Hong Kong focus more on completing something that’s quite easy and conservative which can be done in an hour, so it’s a bit commercial and I find that I prefer the creative work more than the teaching. I opened the office in England about 2 years ago and have been exporting to a number of countries. In terms of scale, they range from crossover collections at museums to small shops. It’s not easy, but that makes me want to be persistent in doing what I love even more.
 
Ecozine: Where did you get your ideas of the Fatina character from?
 
Prudence: It was actually because I had no model for the accessories I had in my catalogue, so I drew the character and people loved it. It went from a catalogue character to being the central figure. I also created other characters but they are all done in an organic manner rather than purposely created. My 6th book in collaboration with Origins will feature Fatina and the main purpose is actually to teach kids to be more caring about the environment.
 
Ecozine: How do you integrate the environment into your work?
 
Prudence: Everything is used, so it’s all very environmentally friendly. I get used fabrics and even the drawers and furniture are second hand. The display on the top of the store actually took a month to create from found objects. From creation to materials, the environmental aspect is very much integrated into everything we do. Vintage and second-hand fabrics and buttons are common features in our work. This concept has been part of Chocolate Rain since the beginning, so it’s not just a fad. We’ve collaborated with Stella McCartney for the eco-fashion Care line, and we did D.I.Y. classes for her VIP clients. I’ve also collaborated with Levi’s and Bossini, where my patchwork was integrated into the big scale manufacturing and I’m happy about that. My favourite collaboration in particular was with the Hong Kong Post, because it was about the collection of memories… so it’s an environmental aspect that goes beyond the physical form, but also in terms of conceptually bringing back collective memories.
 
Ecozine: Who are some of your favourite designers?
 
Prudence: I’m a big fan of local Hong Kong designer Stanley Wong Ping Pui (anothermountainman). He’s well known for his Red, Blue, White collection because he uses something as ubiquitous as the tri-colour woven and transforms it into art. He’s my role model and I really liked his recent work Heaven on Earth at the HKSZ Biennale [2009 Hong Kong & Shenzhen Bi-city Biennale of Urbanism & Architecture]. It portrays a tree on a ship, representing a green oasis in a forest of concrete. He has very positive messages and his works inspires a lot of thinking for me. I also like Ma Ke from Mainland China. Her works Useless and Exception de Mixmind are famous, and she is one of the greatest fashion designers. She uses soiled and torn fabrics, and also chose to use elderly people as the models for her recent collection. I really love how she incorporates environmental and social messages spiritually into her art, which is so different from commercialized designs.
 
Ecozine: What are your upcoming events?
Prudence: We will be working with Origins to create a tree out of used materials. The Fatina character will also be used for Miss Sixty, and clothing samples will truly be reused and recycled for this exhibition. There will also be an exhibition at the Woodhouse. Also coming up is an environmental themed exhibition in collaboration with Greenpeace focusing on China water issues; the art pieces will illustrate the water pollution and toxicity in the water in China.
 

By: Ecozine Staff
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