THOUGHTS ON: Ryan Lo
“Everything we know is changing so my proposal is classic. I hope that it means our way of life is going to continue. It’s comforting.” - Ryan Lo
Womenswear designer Ryan Lo’s collections conjure a romantic fantasy, transporting the mind to the fairy tales of one’s youth, his shows as much an act of escapism as reading a good novel.
Born in Hong Kong, Lo moved to London for university. A year after graduating from the London College of Fashion his designs were scouted by Fashion East. Following this, he was awarded NEWGEN sponsorship from the British Fashion Council in 2014 and 2015 which offers emerging designers the financial aid and showcasing opportunities they need to get off the ground. Lo’s main inspirations are pop culture and a childlike ‘girlishness’, leading many of his collections to mimic classically ‘girly’ fantasies. He has created a ‘woman’, a Lolita-esque femme fatale, whose story each collection strictly follows.
For his SS19 and AW19 collections, Lo’s fashioned woman has found herself in the midst of a classic love story. This year has marked a shift in the designers work. His collections are a lot more wearable than his early work and Lo’s muse has seemingly ‘grown up’. “I don't see myself as that baby doll ingénue. My woman is quite sexy. She's in a spaghetti dress that's backless or sheer. It's much more sexy.” Lo said after his SS19 presentation. His ideas have also moved away from the figurative, concept driven collections of previous years and are more aesthetically focused, tying in with the clothes new found marketability.
It is no surprise that this shift led to Lo’s increased commercial success. AW19 continued the story begun earlier this year but with a more sombre air. This time it is a Gothic muse and her lover, who is a stern uniformed soldier. Last season he was a knight. This collection held more variety in clothing styles than is usual for Lo, who has a preference for a flamboyant gown. Because of this AW19 felt like a journey through a wardrobe, and although the colour pallet was more muted, it still included signature styles like a Peter Pan collar and crochet knits. Lo’s muse may have grown with her designer, but the childlike foundation of his brand still remains.
Personally, I prefer Lo’s earlier work. Although this may not have received a similar reaction from the press – with Vogue writing that “even a Harajuku girl would be tempted to complain of sensory overload” following his SS17 preview - the flamboyance of his designs and their experimental qualities are what first attracted me to the brand. The ease of which he transforms the concept of classic femininity into a garment is not to be overlooked, as it is rare for a designer to be able to communicate so clearly in both physical and metaphorical terms. Although his more recent work has had more commercial success, I worry about a loss of concept for marketability. This being said, Lo has remained loyal to his aesthetic, the kitschy-meets-couture charm of his designs has remained at the heart of his brand, even with their new found eloquence.
TEXT BY ISOBEL GORMAN-BUCKLEY