Lo Fi Feminine


It's a complete accident that as I'm in Hong Kong and Beijing this week, that Fashion East should announce their S/S 13 line-up which includes two newcomers, one of which – Ryan Lo, is *I think* one of the first designers from Hong Kong to be included in a Fashion East show.  When I say "from" Hong Kong, I mean Lo was born, bred and raised there.  That stat should elicit a collective cheer from the fashion obsessives in this teensy tiny city, which whilst is vibrant, incrediby cosmopolitan and flush with money and sheeny shiny shops, doesn't necessarily have a very large roll call of local designers to name check.    That said, Lo's roots and hometown bear only small inklings to his design aesthetic as he is now firmly based in London, having been here for seven years.  His route into fashion was somewhat unconventional and fraught.  When he was younger, he wanted to be an opera singer but his voice changed and he then had to sing a different tune.  He took up with his grandmother's knitting needles and came over to London studying fashion at London College of Fashion, on a stuttered course, sandwiching an internship with Charles Anastase somewhere in between.  Lo mainly learnt on the job, preferring experience to education.  To that effect, I found it strange that his graduate collection wasn't in fact included in the final press BA show at London College of Fashion.  Still, he's turned that miss into a hit as his collection has recently garnered features in Dazed & Confused and Love and of course has got him an on-schedule show at London Fashion Week.  It certainly doesn't fit the normal mould of going from a star-filled Central Saint Martins MA show and on to the path of Fashion East and then New Gen.  

It's this slightly round about path that makes Lo even more determined to ensure he is bringing something new to the table to make immediate impact.  Based on the collections that I've seen as well as some previews of the S/S 13 show, Lo will definitely hit a high, especially in the new format of the Fashion East show whereby Maarten van deer Horst will hold a traditional catwalk show and Lo along with other newcomer Claire Barrow will be doing presentations in separate rooms, giving us onlookers a chance to get up close and personal with the clothes in a setting that introduces us to the designer's world.  What's in Lo's world is frankly everything that a girl, who knows that the colour pink can be subversive, will love.  I.e. girls like you, me and everyone who constantly analyses the notion of femininity in attire.  Or women that never quite let go of the girl within them.  This is the not-a-girl, not-yet-a-woman that inhabits Lo's sugar-coated fantastical pieces.  In his studio is a nameless doll that sums up all the sort of frou frou delights that monopolises Lo's world, alongside his shelves of Hello Kitty trinkets, Pocky, Blythe dolls and all sorts of other plastic fantastic pink stuff, that inevitably smells of either fake strawberries or Japanese grape candy.  







Lo's graduate collection (officially S/S 12 although together with his A/W 12-3 collection, it's more like a precursory combined collection) developed techniques of tightly-wound smocking and knitting with strands of net tulle, the sort of fabrics that you'd create DIY tutus with.  The result is a series of dresses that are part can-can, part lolita, part La Isla Bonita – Lo's version of ultra-femininity and lady-like ensembles.  








His A/W 12-3 collection is more playful, more girl than woman.  Memories of teddy bears, rucksacks with plastic clasps and gold stars litter this collection that perhaps is a more whimsical and slightly naive interlude before Lo's official debut for S/S 13.  There's much to love though in the clusters and gathers of tulle, camo and swiss dot cotton.  Coated mohair and tinsel collaging are further proof of Lo's love of surface texture.  Whilst he has employed knitwear in both of these collections, it's not necessarily the thing that he wants to be defined by.   
















S/S 13 moodboards already indicate a shift that once again tilts the balance back towards woman with mid-twentieth century couture, Lacroix, Frida Kahlo and Mexican quincea√±era dresses.  Add a dash of Wong Kar Wai iconic imagery there and that's about the only fleck of Hong Kong culture you'll see in Lo's complex femme fatale.  She'll make a play for our minds, our inner desires and Tumblr pages come Saturday 15th September at the Fashion East show and Lo will reap the benefits of his unconventional path.  



“Asian is so hot right now”


When Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler summed up their A/W 12-3 collection by saying "It's Asian but in a New York way", I had visions of girls running around downtown (or indeed uptown at Proenza Schouler's impending new store on Madison Avenue) scrabbling around and figuring out ways how to "do" an Asian look.  I'm of course deflecting.  Make no mistake that despite my innate eyebrow raising at all things hokily Oriental (cease before you speak Statesiders, the word is not offensive in the UK) in fashion, Proenza Schouler once again hit a new high.  Their pheasants soared and their chrysanthemums bloomed in a way that did NOT have me wondering whether the designer looked at references from China or Japan through a lens tinted with literal exoticism or hackneyed cliches.  

The show itself sadly eluded my physical self though because even if my eyes wanted to witness this Asian/New York hybrid moment, my body failed me on the night of the show, which had me lurching for the toilet on the bathroom floor.  In Paris though at the showroom, that was where I got to affirm what the pictures already told me already – that Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough are sitting pretty at the front-of-the-pack, setting the tone for the season and for future seasons when the inspired trickle down in other brands and high street clothes begin.  The initial passage of the show is stark, demure and almost monkish in its devotion to all shades of white and cream rendered in quilted, waffled and padded textures, ballooning all over the body in a way that I'm really quite taken with at the moment.  Sadly buying things three sizes too big isn't the solution to the oversized conundrum as Hernandez and McCollough get the proportions bang on – the sleeves curving away from the arms just so, the shoulders hulked around the bodyframe at the correct angles, the skirts flaring out from the legs with precision.  Cynics would say that the shapes owe more than their fair share to Nicholas Ghesquiere but even that old chestnut can't detract from the fact that the collection left onlookers feeling refreshed and excited.

On that trail of thought you have to look at the detailing, which kicks in when Lazaro and McCollough begin to make nods at everything from Japaense kimono obis, samurai uniforms and costumes from Bhutan.  It's a sensory joy to go through all of it in words and in person when feeling up the clothes – tubular plastic beading threaded with leather, basket weave leather, honeycomb stitching, thick jersey yarn knits, geometric quilting and an array of technical laces.  When the textures weren't of the innovative sort that the duo have become known for, more traditional surfaces such as the Japanoiserie brocade is cut and spliced into long-sleeve dresses which do away with any reminders of terrible tourist robes or "sexy Oriental babe" lingerie.  When you see that familiar embroidery of pheasants cockerels and peacocks, reminiscent of vintage kimonos or fraying silk cushions, they're given new environments in the form of baseball jackets of the highest order and quilted dresses.  Show pieces don't get more tangible and unreachable, than this.  Tangible because they are essentially you-me-and-everyone-can-wear-em friendly jackets.  Unreachable because inevitably they'll be hellishly expensive. 

With shows just around the corner, I don't doubt that there will be plenty of these Asian slash New York looks running about town.  Or even err… Asians running around in these Asian slash New York clothes.  Here's hoping yours truly (Asian, staunch Londoner) can join them.    




































A Whiff of Spring


It will soon be that almighty confusing time when I'll be straddling seasons – gushing and gawping at spring summer 2013, wearing autumn winter 2012-3, re-wearing spring summer 2012 and then chucking in some really old seasons in just for good measure.  And that's taking the physical weather out of the equation.  For instance I found myself nuzzling my face up against the softest of knitwear in the height of June in Florentine sunshine that had my skin peeling.  At Pitti Uomo, if I see something I vaguely like at the tradeshow, I normally make eye and hope that the person at the stand makes the first move and speak up.  If they don't, then I shuffle away gormlessly.  Blame it on innate Chinese awkwardness.  When I caught a glimpse of Orley's S/S 13 knitwear though, I think I may have stopped in my tracks, beamed a broad smile and immediately swooped in to find out more about what I was looking at.  

Orley are brothers Alex and and Matthew Orley and his now-girlfriend Samantha Florence who all met at summer camp in Canada.  Over the last decade, the trio gained experience in PR, retail and all facets of knitwear at the likes of Helmut Lang, rag & bone and Thom Browne.  In 2011, this tight-knit (see what I did there?) three decided to do their own thing with a debut collection of knitwear for A/W 12-3.  Orley is both fun and precise at the same time – fun because their way of interpreting references are idiosyncratic and precise because they have a dedication to using the best Italian knitwear manufacterers and generally getting the product right.  The A/W 12-3 collection launched with a spare collection of menswear-focused hoodies, jumpers, cardis and scarves but it's their simple yet effective selection of colours and design that make the product compelling.  

Inevitably, as with other highly focused knittists that have emerged in the last few years such as Sibling and Monsieur Lacenaire, the demand for womenswear sizing soon comes calling.  Therefore the S/S 13 collection is skewed towards both sexes.  Islamic art is remixed in a pastel palette, fused with twentieth century modernism and 1960s graphic design.  If you squint a little at the moodboard they showed me on their iPad, you can see some pastel hues courtesy of a little outfit I wore at Paris Fashion Week, which goes some way to explaining why I was so drawn to the collection when I saw it at Pitti.  You avoid sacharrine submersion with the pastel hues when you have two tone knits, mixing dark brick or teal blue with a murkier olive green, rendered as leather collared knit bikers.  T-shirts and thinner knits solve the problem of knitwear in the summer but the chunkier offerings are equally appealing as they utilise interesting stich techniques combining their unusual colour pairings.  Knitted ties in enlarged houndstooth, retro zig-zags, cam, pixi-florals as well as that Islamic floral motif would tempt either guy or gal to hone their tie-knotting skills, and somehow for me a knitted tie doesn't feel as awkward as wearing a real one.




















Jumpers from Orley's A/W 12-3 collection that are available at selected stockists and are so lovely that even Hong Kong's 34 degree hot-n-humid cesspit hasn't deterred me from wearing them.  



Oh My God!


>> I haven't moved on up to a swish apartment where I can drink whisky pensively whilst looking at skyscrapers.  I'm in Hong Kong at the moment, living it up at Upper House for a few days where I can pretend to be one of those people who would pensively ponder the high life whilst looking at what is a fairly incomparable view of Hong Kong Island.  It's my last getaway before the fashion month begins.  Getaway meaning not looking at clothes for a while, but then the primary pastime of Hong Kong-ers secondary to eating, drew me in.  Steve went to check out The Contemporary Fix at Woodhouse mall in Tsim Tsai Tsui where he can go apeshit over Japanese menswear brands.  Around the corner in thisbasement mall spot though is Liger's new location called Oh My God.  The name change initially threw me off and I didn't quite realise that the store I had walked into was even part of Liger until co-owner Dorothy walked in purely by coincidence.  Just in time to explain that her and Hilary had launched their own in-house label called Oh My God, dropping pieces in that are perfectly in tune with their buy that includes local labels like Creatre de Keis and Plotz.  I should have known I had walked into a Liger-owned store as all the Oh My God pieces were definitely signature of Hilary and Dorothy's style combined – easy-to-wear, sportswear influenced but with interesting fabric choices that instantly make the pieces stand out.  Quilted sweatshirt dresses with special coatings, neon pvc panels in sweaters, metallic skirts, layers of sheer over neon – come to think of it, pretty much all of the Oh My God pieces were all screaming out to me.  Dorothy explained that it's going to be an ongoing and fluid collection with pieces dropping in all the time; a dangerous concept if more visits to Hong Kong occur.  They had also collaborated with Hong Kong designer and friend Johanna Ho on a subsidiary strand of the Oh My God line on pieces that make innovative use of ripstock nylon, such as taking this material normally associated with sports and activewear and adding ruffles and girliness to it.  This prairie smocked dress in grey nylon is from the Oh My God x Johanna Ho line.  


Oh My God x Johanna Ho dress with yellow lining, Chloe sandals

Then because of my overwhelming obsession with anything that looks like a Quality Street wrapper, I also picked up two metallic skirts – one in copper pleather and one in crinkled pink foil.  It also helped that the pieces were fairly reasonably priced (¬£80 for the pink skirt for instance) which momentarily made me think I could pull off the "I'll take it in all three colours!" line.  That's a line I've never been able to pull of by the by.  


Oh My God copper skirt with J.W. Anderson lattice top and Opening Ceremony x Forfex shoes


Oh My God pink skirt with vintage striped top, Comme des Garcons top and vintage shoes