The Savoir-Faire of Fashion: An interview with Carine Roitfeld & Adrian Cheng

Art — 20.10.21

Words: Desislava Todorova
Editor: Devin Duckworth
Special thanks to Carine Roitfeld and Adrian Cheng

Carine Roitfeld | Courtesy of CR Fashion Book

It’s hard to say what achievements Carine Roitfeld doesn’t have under her belt – from brand collaborations and friendships with cult figures in fashion such as Tom Ford to the creation and triumph of her eponymous title CR Fashion Book and time as a Vogue Paris Editor-in-Chief – she has it all and yet doesn’t miss in seizing an opportunity to surprise. Her latest pièce de résistance is Savoir-Faire: The Mastery of Craft in Fashion – an international exhibition that will showcase the extraordinary metamorphosis of craftsmanship and knowledge in fashion – from its inspiration to its current movement towards the use of technology and innovation.

Conceived by cultural maverick and Founder of K11 Craft & Guild Foundation Adrian Cheng, the collection of couture is a tribute to the most exquisite cases and their preservation passed down from generation to generation. We can expect nothing less than the usual suspects of fashion excellence: Chanel, Dior, Schiaparelli, Iris van Herpen, Richard Quinn, and one-of-a-kind pieces from Roitfeld’s never-before-seen private collection.

The exhibition’s debut will be a global celebration. On December 10, Roitfeld will host close friends and designers supporting the exhibition for an intimate reception at the historic Hôtel de Crillon, a Rosewood Hotel in Paris. Simultaneously, Cheng will host a special opening event, titled ‘K11 NIGHT,’ on Hong Kong’s iconic Victoria Dockside promenade. Connected via a virtual live stream, Cheng and Roitfeld will unify leading creatives from around the world for a cross-continent toast to craftsmanship, cultural exchange, and the official commencement of the exhibition. A charity auction will also be held at the opening event in Hong Kong. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to UNESCO and the K11 Craft & Guild Foundation to conserve and rejuvenate fast-disappearing craftsmanship.

Desislava Todorova spoke to both fashion connoisseurs to find out more about the inception of this global event marking a pivotal time in history and fashion.

Adrian Cheng | Founder of K11 Craft & Guild Foundation

Tell us more about the concept of the exhibition?

Adrian Cheng: We started working with Carine in 2020 and it has been our shared passion for creativity and craftsmanship that inspired our idea for this exhibition. We have the same vision to connect people and different cultures through fashion and appreciation for artisanship. We hope that by bringing amazing pieces from internationally renowned fashion houses to Asia, we will do just that. I have always been dedicated to making art and culture more accessible to everyone. Carine, who is an iconic fashion editor and stylist, does the same by making fashion and style come to life for people worldwide. While making K11 Original Masters, our online webinar series, we realized the importance of conserving and restoring fast-disappearing craftsmanship techniques and doing what we can to ensure those skills are not forgotten. We believe that preserving history and tradition is vital because it is only by looking to the past that we can learn how to develop and innovate for the future. We hope that the exhibition inspires and delights people through the appreciation of beauty and craftsmanship. 


© CHANEL FW 2017_18 HAUTE COUTURE Collection | Photographer Anne Combaz – Courtesy of Chanel

Why now? What makes this point in time relevant for this type of exhibition?

Adrian Cheng: Carine and I are excited to bring this multi-brand fashion exhibition to Asia for the first time. Hong Kong is an important cultural center globally and has always acted as a bridge between East and West. We hope this exhibition can be a unique cultural fusion of Chinese and European craftsmanship. And also act as an inspiration for the next generation, motivating them to pursue artisanship and beauty in their own lives. I hope this unprecedented exhibition can rejuvenate the overall cultural landscape of Hong Kong.


Dior | Savior Faire © Sophie Carre (250)

Why did you choose Hong Kong as the exhibition location?

Carine Roitfeld: Hong Kong is home to Adrian and the entire exhibition was thought and built as a joint project. With Hong Kong’s art scene, and as Art Basel’s Asian flagship, we wanted to bring the details, beauty, innovation of haute couture, and its know-how as the next step to the city’s cultural landscape. The multi-brand exhibition will be the first-of-its-kind in Hong Kong. 


Dior | Savior Faire © Sophie Carre (232)

What was your main drive in crafting this highly curated collection of designers and fashion houses?

Carine Roitfeld: I’ve never done anything like this before. Whatever I involve myself in, I always want it to be a surprise. I wanted the curation to look not only as contemporary as possible but also personal. Throughout my career, I’ve worked with and admired the work of countless designers. A list of names emerged naturally: Alexander McQueen, Gianni Versace, Riccardo Tisci, Thierry Mugler, Karl Lagerfeld… I have also forever been curious to discover and support new talents and it felt essential to me to showcase younger designers that are dedicated to giving their own modern perspective on savoir-faire. 


Image provided by Richard Quinn

What is the message you want to communicate with this exhibition?

Carine Roitfeld: This exhibition is not a history lesson in haute couture and craftsmanship, but rather to reveal its beauty and ability to make us imagine. We hope to show the interconnection of fashion and its highest form of art, and how a particular craft can tell the story of another place, time, or maker. I want the visitors to feel like they belong, to be inspired, to dream. 


© CHANEL FW 2017-18 HC Look 64 (2) – Courtesy of Chanel

What’s next? How do you see this project evolving in the long run? Do you see it traveling to other fashion capitals?

Carine Roitfeld: We have one final installment of our Original Masters series launching next month – it’s too early to unveil the details but I’m very excited for audiences to watch. It is one of the most-talked-about Houses and the industry can’t get enough. As for the exhibition, there are early discussions for travel to the U.S. For now, I am very truly excited and honored to be collaborating with Adrian [Cheng] on this first-ever exhibition in Hong Kong.

Savoir-Faire: The Mastery of Craft in Fashion will be opening in Hong Kong on December 13 at the K11 Art & Culture Center.