There’s something irresistible about Ryan Lo’s knowing saccharinity. The LCF-trained designer is a purveyor of hyper-girly fashion with unswerving spirit and confidence. This comes from his love of Disney films. (Also, it comes from the late Sonia Rykiel, to whom he dedicated the collection to.) Like any other Ryan Lo collection, it was optimistic and fun. There were references to The Bangles ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’, to Christina Aguilera’s ‘Genie in the Bottle’ and to Disney’s Aladdin.
There’s something kitschy about the Western portrayal of Middle Eastern ideas. Realistically, Disney isn’t the best way of educating people on foreign cultures. There’s flagrant cultural appropriation, stereotyping and unrealistic beauty ideals, but nonetheless the message behind them is always sanguineous. Lo takes these cultural emblems and reworks them in a more honest way. You know it’s honest because he takes such pride in the work he presents. Last season he recreated a scene from London’s Chinatown last season with the assistance of set designer Gary Card; this season Card was back to created hanging tinsel lanterns in pink, gold, red and purple—a fascinating runway fixture. These brightly coloured lanterns remind Lo of his Hong Kong upbringing, the vibrant hues, the Cantonese music videos, his exposure to other cultures.
Egypt, Turkey, India, Japan. Aside from his native Hong Kong, these were the touchstones he landed upon his collection. There were whiffs of the Ottoman Empire, odes to Japanese manga characters. Most intriguingly, there was his “Victorian pirate” wearing a purple and orange sweater dress over a genie lamp print dress with an extravagant marabou trimmed tricorn hats, courtesy of milliner Stephen Jones. This promoted the collaborative elements to Lo’s brand—the show was styled by Victoria Young, words from friend Susie Lau, set design by Gary Card. These elements perfectly complement his unconventionally beautiful designs.
Amidst all the mad shapes and colours there were calmer moments; a lilac tea-dress with ruche details, with a shimmery bodice; and a black mini with inflated sleeves and a lantern hem. Those were the simpler moments in this collection, palatable entry points for customers who have a hunger for something playful but not as daring as the orange harem pants with magic genie lamp prints—a nod to Venetian clowns and the 18th century Ottoman Empire dress codes.
“Hop on a carpet and fly to another Arabian night,” the press release read. Lo’s narrative is so strong he’d make you believe that with his clothes, you could.
All images are my own