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.