Exclusive: London-based designer Chet Lo on his electrifying collaboration with Charles & Keith
At its core, fashion is a playground of self-expression and creativity, a sentiment that designer Chet Lo wholeheartedly embraces in the creation of his designs. For the uninitiated, Lo—based in London—is renowned for his signature spike-knitting technique, which merges knitwear with loud, Y2K-inspired subversive fashion that is both unconventional and eye-catching. A glance at the spikes may evoke a sense of familiarity in this part of the world, as, according to Lo, it is inspired by the Durian fruit.
Powerful and almost alien-like, Lo’s revolutionary technique has undeniably garnered attention everywhere, catching the eyes of notable stylists who have dressed celebrities such as Zendaya, Dua Lipa, Kylie Jenner, Doja Cat, and NewJeans.
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This month, the designer initiates an exciting new partnership with Charles & Keith, a prominent fashion accessories label based in Singapore. For the latter, this comes a year after the appointment of actress Han So Hee, as their second Korean ambassador, in 2023. In this capsule collection, Lo’s spikes undergo innovative transformations in six of Charles & Keith’s most coveted designs, including platform mules, tie-around ballerina flats, sculptural sling-backs, a petite geometric hand-carry, a distinctive shoulder bag, and a headband. These items are available in three colour options—Vibrant Red, Vivacious Fuchsia, and Black—inspired by Lo’s distinctive aesthetic. Below, the Asian-American designer tells us more about the collection.
Describe the quintessential Chet Lo muse.
“For me, the quintessential customer whom I really love to dress is somebody who is very unafraid of being themselves. It’s that confident person walking down the road, where everyone literally turns their head, saying, ‘Oh my God, that’s an amazing person! I want to be them! I want to look like that!’ That’s the kind of person I want to dress, and it’s always the most random kind of person that ends up being so. You can never really tell, which is what I love.”
What inspires your passion and your talent for design?
“I think my passion is inspired by my mother. She is one of the driving forces of nature that empowered me as I was growing up. As for design, I have always been in love with the arts since I was a kid. Initially, I wanted to be an artist, then a musician, and even a ballet dancer, but eventually, I fell into fashion.
“Since then, I’ve developed a deep love for dressing people. I love the feeling of being able to put on clothes and transform who you are through different vibes and emotions expressed in clothing. You can emulate various thoughts and feelings through clothes, and it’s exciting and really fun.”
What did your mum do?
“She was the CEO of Univision in the States, and then she also served as the CIO of a news network in Hong Kong. As a Chinese woman in the nineties navigating a male-dominated industry, her journey was truly inspiring. Witnessing her break through those barriers was impactful, especially considering she was the breadwinner of the family and flipping the roles of a typical suburban American household.
“For me, it was an incredibly inspiring childhood, and I really just wanted to be able to make her proud by doing something fulfilling with my life. Since growing up, I’ve always looked up to her as a shining example of what I should strive to be.”
Reflecting on celebrities who have worn your designs, such Zendaya, Dua Lipa, Simone Ashley and even NewJeans, have there ever been surreal moments for you witnessing them donning your creations?
“I mean, every single one of those moments is surreal. It’s always a shock and such a surprise because, honestly, you learn and work with these artists, but there’s never a guarantee. I’ve learned to always keep my expectations very low—hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. But every time I see it, my heart kind of stops a little bit, and I just forget that this is what I’m doing for a living. These are people I’ve been listening to for so long, or I’ve just thought they were amazing for so long. For example, with Zendaya, I was watching her and thinking, ‘Oh my God, she’s an amazing actress.’ Being able to see her in my clothes is so reaffirming that the dream is alive and well. It just makes me feel really, really happy to be able to expand my world a little bit.”
What currently captivates you, and how does it influence your creative process?
“Honestly, I know it’s going to sound bad, but I’m obsessed with TikTok right now. I’m not gonna lie; it’s very Gen Z, and I love it so much. There’s such a culture with it, and from an anthropological perspective, it’s so interesting how Gen Z communicates with each other. When I talk to my employees or interns, who are all much younger than me, we interact via memes or references. We don’t actually speak in normal sentences anymore; it’s all through random TikTok references. That’s the most interesting thing to me.
“Additionally, everyone is trying to cater their company to Gen Z, aiming towards the TikTok market. For work, it’s essentially research to understand how these people communicate with each other. It’s like deciphering a new language. At the moment, this has been a very exciting platform for me to explore and understand. I find myself spending every single night before bed watching TikToks. I know it sucks you right in, and then you end up spending three hours on it until three in the morning. It’s so bad but so good.”
What defines style and elegance today in your personal view?
“For me, style and elegance are about conveying a singular line, even though my garments and aesthetic may be visually spiky. In the overarching silhouette, there’s a singular line. It’s like imagining a ballet dancer; from head to toe, it’s just a singular, beautiful line.
“So, when I see a look that may seem clunky or crazy, I think that even if you can look past that, sometimes it can be amazingly minimal and cohesive. Sometimes it really works. Despite my brand being loud, colourful, and crazy, I find myself appreciating a minimalist view of things. It’s interesting to mix the two together. For me, the idea of elegance is this air of being very poised, and I try to incorporate that into my daily life as well.”
Let’s talk about your Charles & Keith collaboration. Can you share the story behind it?
“So, Charles & Keith have been supporters of our brand for ages now, and they were generous enough to support me for the last two shows—for our Fall/Winter 23 collection and our Spring/Summer 24 collection. It was a natural progression for us to work together, and I’m super excited to share what we’ve been working on.
“Basically, the collection was inspired by our original spikes. The story behind the spikes, which I found perfect, is that I was inspired by the Durian fruit. Given that Charles & Keith, being a Singaporean brand, has a strong presence in the East, I’m always trying to reconnect with my roots as an Asian-American raised in the West. It was nice to work with people in Asia, despite the challenging time difference. I believe there’s a cultural understanding they possess, which I might lack living in London at the moment. So I think for both of us, it was a really beautiful collaboration, but for me specifically, I just was so proud to be able to work with them.”
Speaking of the Durian, what’s your verdict?
“I think it is something that I’m going to have to try a couple of times over until I like it.”
Can you highlight some memorable moments from designing the capsule collection with the brand?
“So, I’m definitely excited about this beautiful shoe that features an exquisite plexiglass heel, and it’s super sexy and elegant. Additionally, we’ve designed a really cute little bag with a charming ball and chain that I adore; I can’t help but want to swing it at everybody.
“It’s really nice to work with them because I’ve always wanted to delve into accessories. Primarily a fashion brand, I never had the background to do so. With this collaboration, they possess the expertise to craft shoes and bags properly. It’s the first time I’m seeing these visions come to life with a real backing to them. I’m super proud and happy about everything.”
Is designing accessories as enjoyable as creating clothes?
“I mean, with the Charles & Keith team, they made everything so easy. I literally said, ‘I want it like this, maybe,’ and they were done with a sample. I definitely love accessories; I find it super exciting. I’ve also learned so much from them; they obviously have a significant background in it. I believe that designing accessories is something I would love to continue doing in the future.”
What were some stand-up moments for you in 2023?
“The world has been falling apart a little bit, and it’s really sad. But I definitely find solace in the fact that on Instagram and in our community, everybody has been so active and vocal about everything. I’ve been able to see the kind of response everyone has been having regarding so many different issues in the world, and it’s really uplifting to see that we’re all joining together for something.
“However, I also think there have been so many fabulous moments. So, this year has been very cute but exhausting. For us, this collaboration was something that I never thought I would be able to do or accomplish. I’m so proud of it, and being able to continue doing what we do every season is always a joy.”
What are some of your goals for 2024?
“I love to branch into homeware, and I’m very excited about what’s coming up and being released. We’re also working on a really exciting next season. So I’m trying to expand the brand into more diverse categories. 2024 is all about global expansion.”
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