Backstage before Chet Lo’s first solo show, things were oddly calm. Everyone seemed to know what they were doing, mostly everyone was in good spirits, and I think I only saw a couple of people running – a rare feat, and almost unheard of 20 minutes before a debut solo show. “I’m done with my bridezilla phase” Chet said whilst making some final tweaks to the models. “I feel like I’ve delegated enough to the point where it’s ok now. You look amazing!”.
He wasn’t lying – Chet Lo’s SS23 collection was a spectacle that had to be seen to be believed. When you think of the designer, you think of his signature spiky knitwear: an instant trademark (ahem, H&M) that sets him apart from the crowd. Previously showing for two seasons under Fashion East, the designer has become a fast-favourite of celebrities, media and fashion fans alike – so it helps that he’s an all-round joy too.
For SS23, Lo looked to his childhood and cultural background – thinking back to his weekly Temple visits and the philosophies of Buddhism to inform the collection. Specifically, the Buddhist idea of a cyclical existence. In practice, this played out through the designs, show environment and supporting narrative: circles were foregrounded, incense was burnt, and every detail considered.
Chet’s accessory game is always strong, but this show took things to the next level. The show opened with an all-green look that debuted the designer’s new globular hats – perfectly round as “a nod to Chinoiserie” and inspired by lily pads. Throughout the proceedings, lilac, orange and blue versions followed, in what we can’t help but would be perfect attire for the 2m rule. Or weddings you don’t want to be disturbed at.
Elsewhere, Lo experimented with screen printed denim, courtesy of ISKO, and airbrushed the same illusion graphic onto the models’ skin. Here, the designer played with the idea of illusions of perspective; what initially reads as stripes soon turns into concealed flowers, depending on where you stand.
However, this wasn’t his only play with proportions: this collection lay within the intersections of dramatic and breakable, substantial and fleeting. Huge floating orbs, wrapped in Lo’s signature spiky knit, were attached to models’ arms to leave the audience in a state of change: “the drama of the gargantuan balloons subsides when we remember the fragility of the air filled decoration”. It was a collection constructed in multidimensionality: of meaning, proportion and wearability.
Closing the show was a duo of transparent gowns adorned with lotus-inspired 3D plastic flowers, which had been seen wrapped in models’ hair or framing their faces. These were a return to the designing Chet did at CSM – a more classical, “old-fashioned” take on fashion that we hadn’t seen from him on catwalks thus far. Adding to the theatre of the show, these flowers fell off (not entirely intentionally) as the models walked – leading to FROW members grasping for the broken-off pieces as a souvenir of a momentous show.
To be honest, we can’t blame them: baai-san (the collection’s title / ‘to pray’ in Cantonese) felt like a show you wanted to be a part of in some way: prompting emotional, analytical, but overwhelmingly tactile responses from those there to experience it.
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