In an industry based on trends that come and go, setting yourself up as a young designer to not only have a brand identity but also adjusting it to the pace of the industry can be an almost impossible feat to accomplish. In Chet Lo’s case though, his signature spikey knitwear has put him on the map as one to watch, as well as proving the non-exhaustible ways in which it can be done.
Whenever you see a spikey knitted piece, even from miles away, you know it’s Chet Lo. Expanding his universe, the London-based designer goes underwater with the sleekly-designed smartwater for its latest campaign, and creates a custom fit for Zendaya that captures the fluidity of natural water. The campaign is all about keeping it smart while also embracing an innovative aesthetic and perspective, which Chet certainly does through his designs. We caught up with the designer to talk about this link up, his own admiration of Zendaya and how he reinvents his brand while keeping in touch with its core, with a little teaser of his upcoming SS24 show at London Fashion Week next month.
Hey Chet! How’s it going? Where are you joining us from today?
Hey! Everything’s good. We’re trucking along, we got Fashion Week happening soon so just trying to finish that sh*t in our London studio.
Tell me a little bit about this project with smartwater featuring Zendaya. Apart from dressing Zendaya, why did you want to be a part of it?
Obviously, smartwater is such a massive company that has worldwide reach. The advertisements, the marketing and everything, it’s always been very chic. It’s cool that they’ve marketed a brand within just selling water. I thought that was quite brilliant. And also, everything about it is quite moderate and quite cool. I thought that it was quite relevant for the brand. So I’m very excited to hop onto an opportunity like that.
For this one, you designed a two-piece, smartwater-blue spikey knitted number with a raised collar. Talk to me about the creative process behind this piece.
We had the top already from our SS23 collection and I thought that matched very well with the concept. Then we continued that for the project. We wanted to make a maxi spike skirt to match with it. But for me, it was all about creating. For [smartwater], they wanted something translucent and quite mercurial, very waterbase and I thought that this was that technique. The fabrication was so perfect for it because it was transparent and the silhouette is very sea urchin, underwater vibes anyway. So I was like “you know what, this is all working out for the best”. I was very, very happy with it.
What was it like making a custom fit for Zendaya? Did you have a lot of back and forth fittings or were you working on a strict schedule?
It was very strict. Basically, there were so many logistics and stuff like that. The shoot happened a couple months ago, so it was a very quick deadline. We literally had to do it, I think, in two days. It was a little bit stressful, but it was fine and we made it work. And Law was great. He had a lot of really great feedback. Yeah, it was a good process.
When working on a project like this, do you take into account the person who will be wearing your style and let their persona inform your design process? What about Zendaya stood out to you as inspiration?
Definitely! We drew up a little croquis, a little sketch of her which was really cute I have to say. We looked through all of her past outfits, being like “oh okay, she’s just comfortable showing this part of her body”. I’d always seen her in very demure, elegant looks. I thought how fun would it be to put her in something more punky or more girlypop and sexy.
Women have always been a key source of inspiration for you, whether it’s your direct family, your close circle of friends or any female celebrity figure. Was Zendaya on this list of inspiration before this project?
Oh my God, yeah, always! I mean, ever since I freaking watched Euphoria, it was like a whole mind swap for me. She’s just so talented. She’s amazing at what she does and she’s so gorgeous. And I think it’s important to have strong female role models like that.
This campaign is all about celebrating designers who do things differently, smartly. Your design aesthetic on its own, specifically the spikey knits, are different from anything else I’ve seen on the runway, but for FW23 we saw you switch out your typical colourful style for an almost all-black collection. How do you balance having a core brand identity without restricting yourself to one trick or one look?
Every season, we try to accommodate for the demand. We have for our brand signature, obviously, the spikes are very popular, and we love that and we’re really happy with it. But every season, we try to push for new techniques, and it’s always very focused on new techniques for textiles. We’re always trying to push that envelope. Last season, we tried to laser cut all these leather pieces and we tried to play with this cool leather material that we were able to wash off like layers of paint, different colours. That for me was really interesting to play with. Also last year, we had an amazing fabrication of wool to silk all in one panel. So you could see it starts off very structured and it gets really flowy at the bottom. Stuff like that, for me, is really interesting. This season, we’re introducing a couple of new textiles as well, so it’s really exciting. We’re always trying to see different ways of pushing the boundaries essentially, in terms of techniques and textiles. We’re constantly experimenting, and then trying to see if it’s receptive or in this case if it’s feasible. For us, it always goes back to textiles.
So you’re pushing boundaries on more than one aspect of design.
Yeah. Even colour wise, last season was probably the first season in which I actually thought about the customer instead of just trying to give out a story. I graduated quite recently from uni, and from that I had always this idea of this unique mentality of this is a story and I need to get the point across and blah, blah, blah. You’re not really envisioning who’s actually wearing these pieces. It clicked for me last season that this woman or this person needs to be expensive looking, classy, not just a fun, cool, party girl but she’s also in a business meeting. We’re just trying to elevate that customer. That’s when I was like “okay, let’s make it darker”, and this season, it’s not as dark. We’re reintroducing some more colours, but it’s a very different way of approaching it, rather than just splattering on crazy colours.
Have you got any other secret projects you’re working on? Or have you been spending your time in preparation for September’s show?
We have a lot of projects in the pipeline, which is really exciting. I can’t disclose them to you just yet. It makes things really f*cking difficult because my mind is stretched into a million different ways, but I’m really excited about it. I think it’s gonna be really really cool the next couple of months. And our London Fashion Week show is coming up. It’s going to be really sexy.
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