Designer Ryan Lo, surrounded by his models, backstage at his FW16 show. Photograph by Lily Brown.



Fall in Love with the Sweet, 'Sex and the City'-Tinted Designs by Ryan Lo

Where once Christopher Columbus looked out into the distance and saw hope and promise in land that wasn’t his, now we see little more than a sea of hoodies. The only hope we can detect in our distant future is head warmth—head warmth, and perhaps an all girls basketball league.

For those with nary a sporty bone in their body—for those who hear the words “Super Bowl” and immediately think of their favorite piece of china, cramp at the mere mention of football and count a high-anxiety, sweaty dream as their only form of exercise—this can be a difficult time. We open up our closets, look at our lonely, downtrodden Mary Janes, and wonder, “Will you ever be relevant again?”

Yet amidst this expanse of activewear, there is a light, a ray of hope. Look past the track pants, the hoodies, the Adidas, and the five panels, and you’ll find Ryan Lo’s sweet, pink head bopping about excitedly.

(L) A look from Ryan lo’s ‘Sex and the City’ inspired SS15 collection, shot by Krish Nagari. (R) A Western look from his AW14 presentation, shot by OnFeature.

As one of the very few young designers left who’s remained steadfastly loyal to an unabashedly feminine, candy-coated aesthetic, the Hong Kong-raised, London-based designer is a much needed anomaly. Unlike most young, London based designers today, he didn’t go to Central Saint Martins, is actually self-taught in some areas of design, and draws inspiration not from obscure artists or works of art, but rather from such pop culture mascots as Miranda Hobbes and Ally McBeal—the two “lonely workaholics…who were desperately fighting for love,” as Lo put it, that inspired his Spring/Summer 2013 collection “I Push Doors That Clearly Say Pull.” He’s also consistently inspired by anime, Chinese culture, and Disney. The result is dainty, angelic, and fantastical, without being at all campy.

A few days after re-showing his Fall/Winter 2016 collection in Shanghai last week, I hopped on the phone with Lo, who was kicking it in Hong Kong for a couple days before returning to London.

I know you just re-showed your Fall/Winter 2016 collection in Shanghai. What was the inspiration behind the collection? Was it influenced by Chinese culture?

Yes, but in a very abstract way. Not too literal. It’s almost like my interpretation of the Chinese rather than actual Chinese, so it’s a fantasized world.

I moved to London ten years ago so I[‘ve been] homesick. I wanted to do something that’s really Oriental, and it was kind of refreshing to do that.

Two backstage shots from Lo’s Chinese-inspired FW16 London show. Shot by Zoe Lower.

And you’re close with [famed blogger] Susie Bubble, right? Does she write all of your show notes?

Yeah, she’s been a big supporter since my first season. [She’s been writing my show notes] from the beginning. Because, y’know, her family’s from Hong Kong, she kind of speaks my language, so we share a lot of similar aesthetics, like cultural references. She gets it.

What’s the best advice she’s given you?

I guess just to be myself, that’s it. [And] not [to] count on anyone.

The majority of your clothes are super girly, super frilly and sweet. Do you have any plans to expand your line into a darker territory?

Well I did a darker collection [for] Autumn ’15. It was really dark for me—like Anna Karenina, Black Swan. It was like a frozen ice queen, but not in a friendly way. Kind of like Russian. We played the Frozen soundtrack, but other than that, it was all really dark. 

What’s inspiring you right now?

I guess the Middle East. Me and my show stylist, Victoria Young, we’re thinking we’re like the second Sex and the City, [in] Abu Dhabi.

A veiled, slightly haunting look from Lo’s Black Swan inspired FW15 collection.

From your Instagram I can tell you’re pretty fond of Sex and the City. Do you come to New York a lot?

I’ve actually never been to New York—don’t tell anyone! It’s [more of] a fantasy thing I guess. It might disappoint me—that’s [probably] why I never came.

Which SATC character do you identify with most?

Carrie. I used to be… well, I always felt like a Miranda, actually, but in the past few years I think I’ve [become more of a] Carrie.

“I guess in terms of visual aesthetic, I’m more Carrie. She’s the trashy one, [the] tacky one. The one that takes risks.”

Yeah, like you’re sort of coming into your own now?  

I used to be really logical, like decisive. But I guess in terms of visual aesthetic, I’m more Carrie. She’s the trashy one, [the] tacky one. The one that takes risks.

[Laughs] I see it. So I know you’ve been collaborating with O Thongthai jewelry for the past few seasons. How’s that been going?

It depends on the collection, but I think in the last few seasons, jewelry has been really important for the look of the show. It suits the girl’s aesthetic. It was important to do that—it felt much more finished.

Some of the Ryan Lo x O Thongthai pieces, taken backstage at Lo’s SS16 show by Chloé Le Drezen.

Are there any other brands or designers you’d love to collaborate with?

Well we used to do Sophia Webster shoes, [but] we like to do things in-house now. Because, for me, it’s very important to have one concise, direct message throughout the entire collection—through the jewelry, the shoes, everything. I think when you start collaborating with people, you somehow get other influences. Sometimes it’s great, but I just like to have complete control on everything now.

“I actually don’t really care about what other people are doing. I’m just concentrating and focusing on me.”

That’s great. So I love your aesthetic, and especially the fact that it contrasts so heavily with the whole androgynous, Vetements craze that’s going on. Do you have any thoughts on this whole genderless trend that practically every designer seems to be doing?

It’s tricky for me to say; [honestly,] I try not to think about it. I actually don’t really care about what other people are doing. I’m just concentrating and focusing on me.

Who’s your dream person to dress?

It really depends, I used to have a list, but at the moment people can do whatever they want with my clothes. I guess a doll. [I’d love to] design a doll after a human.

I know you said you don’t really pay much attention to what other people are doing, but is there anything you think the fashion industry is missing?

I think it’s oversaturated with everything, there are a lot of people. [Everything has] been done already. [So,] nothing—nothing is missing, apart from the green stuff, but green stuff is not going to make money, realistically. It’s [just] not going to happen.

(L) Backstage at Lo’s SS16 show, shot by Chloé Le Drezen. (R) Backstage at Lo’s FW16 show, shot by Alin Kovacs for Design SCENE.

I can’t speak for other places, but at least in New York, I kind of wish more stores stocked your clothes. Do you have any plans to grow your list of stockists?

I was just picked up by Dover Street in New York, the winter [collection]. Our biggest stockers are in Japan, where you have a lot of boutiques, like in Harajuku, in Tokyo. Especially in Asia, colorful and cute fits the customers pretty well. I guess in New York or even in America, most people wear black. But we’re slowly getting there. My stuff is not everyday stuff compared to what’s going on in fashion. Everyone in fashion is doing black, you know?

I guess our princess stuff is quite difficult. It is a niche market, but I like to be niche. There’s no point for me to do hundreds of t-shirts.

Images by Krish Nagari and via OnFeature, Hunger Magazine, O Thongthai, Design Scene, and Tumblr.

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