If the word knit conjures up images of braided cable-knit sweaters or DIY granny-chic cardigans for you, fashion designer Chet Lo turns that script on its head completely. Her pieces are sexy and intriguing with a hint of alien energy. Spike-like details emerge from her clothes like mountainous terrain on Mars and they come in an explosion of colors like neon yellow, watermelon hues and cerulean blue. Her clothes are steeped in wearable fantasy. They are for fashion adventurers, individualists – the Hunter Schafers of the world.
“I would die if she and this whole group of powerful women – Alexa Demie, Barbie Ferreira – [wore my designs]”, he says on the phone. “Chet Lo dresser is this really powerful, androgynous and super sexy person. I want them to feel absolutely hot [in my pieces]. I want them to be like, ‘Yeah, I wear spikes and what about?’ Then, head to the bar and sit down for a drink while looking your best.
The emerging designer developed this distinctive 3D aesthetic while a student at London’s prestigious art school in 2015: Central Saint Martins. After internships at Maison Margiela and Proenza Schouler, Lo launched her graduate collection titled “Cnidarias Wife,” featuring her now-iconic spikes. “I was rummaging through all those old knitting books for inspiration, then I found a really difficult technique, which was super mathematical and boring to figure out. I decided to use this technique with the type of yarn the harder than I could find, which was a thin yarn, almost like a hair, to knit,” he recalls. “I mixed the two different things together and the result was something I really loved. That’s kind of how it all started. »
I notice that the lineup was very foreign to meeting seafaring people and nightclub vibes, to which Lo responds, “Exactly. I was inspired by the 50s, kinda like The Jetsons, mixed with a super futuristic sci-fi world they were set in. Her silhouettes were also a nod to the look of debutante ball gowns, hence the protruding proportions of the hips and the bows at the shoulders. The clothes seemed bathed in a technicolor disco ball.
Looking back, Lo admits that this collection went in many directions and that when looking back on his early work, he said to himself: “Wait a minute, [I need to] calm the shit down. Yet the presentation contained prototypes of what would become his brand’s design DNA. In her “2nd Generation” collection – which Lo created during lockdown in 2020 – crop tops, miniskirts, strapless dresses and elbow-length gloves have all been given the same 3D texture treatment. Lo continued her use of vibrant hues via a color palette of fuchsia pink, bright purples, and grape juice purple.
This time, however, instead of looking to the 1950s for inspiration, he dug deeper to tap into his own childhood and Asian American identity. (Lo is Chinese – his mother is from Shanghai while his father is from Hong Kong.) He cites his love for anime, especially the 90s dystopian series Neon Genesis Evangelion and ghost in the shell, for the “2nd generation” robotic aesthetic. Her socks and tights were named “Durian” – a nod to the controversial Southeast Asian fruit with a thorny shell that, when opened, releases a pungent smell.
“When I was doing [the spikes], I was like ‘oh my god, this reminds me of durian,’ he said. “My mom is obsessed with durian and she even eats the ice cream version of it. This, coupled with all the anime references, was my [way of incorporating an] Asian aesthetic [into my clothes].” The desire to represent and celebrate his legacy in the “2nd Generation” and in his subsequent Spring 2022 “Splash” collection stems from Lo feeling different growing up, coupled with all the social unrest of recent years.
“Being surrounded by a white-oriented society really went to my head when I was a kid. You feel so insecure about yourself,” Lo shares. “Then in high school, I walked for the Black Lives Matter movement and it changed my life. It was so amazing to be surrounded by so many POCs [and seeing the community join together] made me feel validated. Like, ‘you know what, fuck everybody [naysayers], I’m genius.’ It was so powerful for me to witness that and it really helped me grow,” he says.
This message “be yourself and don’t apologize” is literally reflected in its sui generis knitwear via the sharp design and the bright colors. You can’t stop me to feel audacious in Lo’s creations. His expressive pieces have also struck a chord with free spirits in Hollywood – Willow Smith, Kylie Jenner and SZA have all worn his clothes.
The activism Lo experienced in high school would later come back into play once he launched his eponymous label in August 2020. After his mother experienced anti-Asian hatred in New York during quarantine, Lo wanted to transform the powerlessness he felt in action. He raffled off his Nirvana Gradient dress to generate money for Stop AAPI Hate, an organization that tracks incidents of hate and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States “While i was writing the instagram caption i was crying because i was trying to tell the story of my mom and how much [this raffle] has been. The fact that she couldn’t take the train or walk the streets without feeling safe affected me a lot emotionally,” he recalls.
When Lo talks about his future knitting aesthetic, he stresses the importance of continuing to incorporate Asian elements into his collections. “I will always mix the different aesthetics of Western and Eastern cultures. This is my heritage and my story. I find it so rewarding,” he says. “I don’t like to create from something that doesn’t concern me at all, so it will always be my inspiration forever.” As for the popcorn 3D details that first put his designs on the map? You can rest assured that it will be an essential part of her future clothing and accessories. (Lo is working with Fashion East, a nonprofit talent incubator that supports emerging designers, to refine and further explore this knitting technique.)
Look for all the aforementioned details in Lo’s upcoming Fall ’22 collection, which will debut during London Fashion Week. He is currently busy fine-tuning his programming, which will be a strong nod to Asian culture, and catching up on the latest episode of Euphoria during his free time. (Hunter Schafer, if you’re reading this, you need Lo’s fantastic knitwear.)
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