Cashmere meets comfort: Maison Huit by Johanna Ho

A year and a half ago, Johanna Ho wanted to re-establish herself as a Hong Kong fashion designer.  Since then, she has opened a flagship boutique in the neighborhood of Central, and her latest entry into the local fashion scene is a capsule collection with an even newer shop in Wan Chai called Maison Huit.  True to the name, it specializes in housewares, and the Maison Huit by Johanna Ho collection features comfortable pieces that are intended to be worn around the home, but can also double as outerwear.

In her own words at a press preview, Ho guided Meniscus Magazine through her cashmere collection, its classic departure from her usual designs, and how the pieces are appropriate for both Asian and non-Asian figures:

On the collection: “Well, this whole line is about versatility. It’s about basics with a twist to it. The concept is a small line but, you know with me, I’m always into sustainability as well and the ideas of how to design something that not necessarily have to be 100 percent eco.

“But nowadays I think being eco-conscious is also about how to sustain, how to buy and wear something that can lasts in your wardrobe and is not about cheap, cheerful, wear it once and chuck it another day – that kind of clothing. It’s about buying something that is long-lasting. So that goes into the quality and good design, and something that can fit into all different shapes and sizes. This line is what this is all about.

“When I was first approached by Scipian – the Scipian girls, I call them [Maison Huit parent company co-founders Jane Chao-Lee, Viola Chen-Cheong and Vanessa Chen-Kwan] – they’re into the whole lifestyle concept…I think the reason for working with them is because they know that I’m known for my knitwear design. The concept is designing a line of knit pieces that is comfortable – easy-to-wear classic pieces that can last for a few seasons or more.”

 

On the ruffle cape: “This kind of polo-neck knitted cape – which is kind of designed in a special way, how it fits well, the shoulders – I call it the Audrey Hepburn piece which is kind of very classy.  I can almost imagine Audrey Hepburn wearing it with a pair of skinny drainpipe jeans and very classy flats, that kind of look. So it’s very elegant.”

 

On the housecoat: “This is what we call the morning robe. Why we so call [it]: when people wake up, first thing, you put on this beautiful 100 percent cashmere robe that you can sit around, lounge around in the house on a lazy Sunday afternoon.  This was the concept but of course, after we made it, we realized it’s just as good going out in. It’s something quite interesting in the details as well, with the contrast trimming. At the same time I added this kind of cool touch, which has got a slit underneath the sleeves. So you can wear it like a cape basically.

“Nowadays there’s a big trend…especially with the season, to almost drape your jackets over your shoulders instead of wearing a jacket. This is kind of how the concept came around…trying to look cool, but at the same time it’s practical because it’s kind of locked in into a sleeve so you’re not having the problem of just draping a jacket on top and then it will fall off. You don’t have that worry in that sense and plus it keeps you warm because it’s 100 percent cashmere.”

 

On the long cape: “And then of course there’s the longer cape version. This one comes in an open button front and it’s more like a cardigan cum cape. It has the slits in front, so again it’s something easy to wear, and it’s in a slightly longer length. For those who don’t like to show too much of their heinies, there’s a good coverage there. It’s all about proportions.  It’s something kind of really well thought [out] and how it also works with Asian bodies as well. It’s important because Asian body types are naturally not very tall.  This line is about fitting all shapes and sizes so there’s not a lot of restriction to the wear.”

 

 

On the traveling blanket – that folds into a cushion: “Last but not least we have the magical piece, which is a blanket cum shawl, and then it conveniently turns into a pillow. When you’re done with it, the concept is that you can fold it all back up and then you can just snugly put it back into a pillowcase.  So it’s great to travel [with].

“One time when I was coming back from London from a trip, I was in flight and I was using the [airline’s] blanket on the plane.  Unfortunately I had a really nasty kind of chemical reaction to the blanket chemical. So I came out with a huge rash and ever since that little incident I had this kind of scare.  I thought, well, why not do your own little travel blanket that you can use?  It’s light, and you can just snug it into your carry-on bag.

“So this is why it came about. Plus again it’s 100 percent cashmere. It’s very nice, soft to the touch, it’s warm. It turns into a shawl as well as a blanket. It’s multi-purpose in many ways, but in a nice elegant way.  This is always something that I strive for when I design, is to not only do something that is functional but it also has to be beautiful and classy to the woman’s figure.”

About how the collection complements Asian figures:  “If you look at the capes, [they basically complement] two kinds of proportions.  One is a shorter one. The shorter one, how it works is, we deliberately did it just kind of underneath the elbow.  So in a way, then, you’re not restricted to move because if you have it too long, and then you don’t have a slit, then you are kind of restricted to movement. We wanted to have this cape to have it very clean cut so it’s something very simple. It has the nice proportion of something that is not kind of drowning you.  [That’s] the most important thing.

“[For the robe that] is a little bit longer [in] length, it works with…those who don’t like to have their behind show too much, it’s something that is an option, that you can kind of hide those things that you don’t want to see.  I do think that a lot of Asian girls like to wear skinny jeans or leggings, so this is a good option of doing that.”

On debunking the perception of knitwear: “A lot of people think of knitwear as something very bulky, like granny’s knitwear. So, when we did this, I [was] very careful.  It needs to be very light and elegant at the same time, and still feel very comfortable. Knitwear is something you can feel, you can snug into it – but not having the concept of having something very bulky [and] makes you look fat. This is the whole concept behind this line.”

For our complete interview with Johanna Ho, watch our video on YouTube below:

The Maison Huit by Johanna Ho collection is currently being sold at Maison Huit (G/F, No. 8A St. Francis St., Wan Chai, Hong Kong) and at Johanna Ho (G/F, 13 Wyndham St., Central, Hong Kong.)