SIGNED magazine #29

Lee had received training in architecture and art from the New York Academy of Art and the Columbia University. He has also been an architect in Japan, the U.S. and the U.K. A few years ago, Lee set his architecture career aside and founded his studio "L'impression du temps". Using his distinguished coding and algorithm skills, he began venturing into creative artistic patterns. His creations later extended to fashion, jewellery and fabric design. His unique insight, indepth research and recreation of Chinese formal wear is most remarkable. Lee has also published the series The soul of formal wear online, sharing every detail of his meticulous research. Chinese formal wear has undergone millennia of evolution, but a historical rift was torn by the end of the Qing dynasty. Young intellectuals resisted traditions in the Republic era. They thought the country's backward development was dragged by the shackles of traditions, rather than a result of people's vague knowledge about the world. After more than a hundred years of colonisation, Hong Kong only has half-baked knowledge about Western classics or modern civilisation. The so-called conservation of cultural heritage is dressed up with local "creativity" to ensure it lives up to buzzwords such as "revitalised heritage", "innovative heritage", "tradition with a twist", etc. The century-long history of the evolution of formal wear has turned into an extended period of confusion. Five hundred years ago during Renaissance, art was normalised and institutionalised in Europe. Art academies and museums were established to collect important documents and artefacts. Similarly, the legacy of Western clothing that has advanced with time has benefited from the extensive support of fashion brands, scholars and experts, and art-related institutes. Lee commented, "On the contrary, rich wives in ancient China preferred to have their clothes custom made by seamstresses. As a result, quality is dependent on the wearer's aesthetics and taste. Sadly, transmission of know-how was difficult as seamstresses were not usually highly educated. The situation is similar in architecture – the perpetuation of the culture cannot solely rely on renovators or bricklayers. The mission would be more suitably carried out by architects. I am trying to be an architect in passing down the culture of Chinese formal wear." To map out a clear path of progression for ancient Chinese formal wear, Lee studied a massive number of historic writings and numerous private and museum clothing collections from various dynasties. He said, "We must master the constants of Chinese formal wear as these are the dominating elements. They are here to stay no matter what." Speaking of the origins of Chinese formal wear, a passage from the Book of Rites, a Confucian classic, must not go unmentioned. It reads, "Anciently, shenyi was made with definite measurements, so as to satisfy the requirements of the compass and square, the line, the balance, and the steelyard." Shenyi is a form that had its earliest written records in the pre-Qin period. It traces back to the ancient period of Yu Shun and Xia Shang. Since Chinese formal wear originates from Confucian definitions, the same standards became the foundation for all theoretical texts written in subsequent dynasties. The rites and morals of the time were even ingrained into the details and finishings of clothing designs. The number of cloths, the lengths of the cuffs and front openings, for example, all carry symbolic significance in Confucian concepts. In fact, "guiju" (compass and square) was well explained in the Book of Rites. "Gui" is a compass for drawing circles; "ju" is the angle square. Together, they form the basis of what is known as geometry in the West. They used to be the standards of astrology. Consequently, moral values were added to these standards. In that sense, "guiju" sets out the subjective Confucian ideas that people must be taught to behave righteously. Subjective values, however, can be judged and defined in many ways by different people. Lee believes in observation. In fact, people's views on the world, on their life, and on values all stemmed from observing nature and the universe. As such, astrology is interwoven in everything. In ancient times, Confucian scholars unilaterally equate the definite measurements of the compass and square, the line, the balance, and the steelyard to the virtues of justice, selflessness, righteousness and loyalty. To inquire into the aesthetics of the shenyi of Chinese formal wear, one should holistically look at the concepts of the human body in traditional Chinese and Western cultures, including the philosophies and theories of humanities and science. "Gui" (compass) sets the normal, which is perpendicular to the ground. The centre is where one stands, and it is where the world converges. "Ju" (square) sets out the vector along the normal of "gui"; it projects influence to the world at an angle. "Sheng" (line) forms two17 3. Magua 馬掛 設計 design/ L'impression du Temps 時間的印記 縫製 made by/ 樂思手工 製 Handmade by Royce, Royce Chau 面料 fabrics/ 馬褂、馬 甲- Lanificio Luigi Ricceri, wool+silk, 長袍- 芝麻紗 silk leno 鈕扣buttons/ L'impression du temps 時間的印記 眼鏡eyewear/ Oliver Goldsmith 鞋shoes/ Dragon teeth by Angel Chen 4. Historians believe the mystic codes on this ancient jade turtle may shed light on the origins of culture, metaphysics and calendar systems. 歷史學家猜測凌家灘「玉版 玉龜」上的神秘八角星符圖 案和圓孔數字,也許展示了 遠古文化結構、術數、曆法 的來源。 4 *Herman Lee has also published the series The soul of formal wear online, sharing every detail of his meticulous research. 李漢樑以《禮服的靈魂》為 題寫下一系列文章,與大家 分享其研究心得。