In this hectic time, when it seems to be fashion week every week, shows can blend together. It’s hard to tell one collection from another. Aesthetics merge, looks combine, and everything can start to feel a bit flat. Then Ryan Lo’s show happens. You could recognise a shot from his runway show instantly, even as a tiny square image on Instagram, which is, today, how most fashion imagery is consumed. That doesn’t sound like much of a complement, but given how safe – mundane, even - many runway shows have become given the pressure to please as many markets as possible, and increasingly sell instantly, it is. Lo has convictions and obsessions. When you attend one of his shows, you’re in invited into his world, rather than just asked to peruse (and document) some new product.
That’s not to say that Lo doesn’t have aesthetic comrades. Many point to London peers; the now defunct Meadham Kirchhoff who paved the way for the festival of girlishness and magpie excess currently taking place on the runways, or newer names such as Ashley Williams and Mimi Wade who like all things cartoon and saccharine. But it's heroes from decades before who should be credited with forming Lo. He doesn’t mime their archives for opportunities to copy, but instead plays tribute to their ethos. One thinks always of Charles Anastase, with whom Lo worked before starting his label. Or Galliano, during his maximalist days at Dior – those Stephen Jones pirate hats (a new collaboration for Lo) couldn’t help but get one feeling nostalgic. But today it was another great, the late Sonia Rykiel, who was the story. Lo dedicated his collection to her – naming her ‘his fashion hero.’ The adored French designer passed away just weeks before his show. But her optimism, and cheerful approach to fashion ran through proceedings. One thought also of her pragmatism – Lo’s sweet poufy party dresses looked strangely easy and even a touch pared back compared to past seasons. They’ll appear to those who still want the princess fairytale. Much fashion today is cynical and almost oppressively nonchalant. Lo’s fashion tries hard. That’s enjoyable to watch.
Many of his usual inspirations were there – the Hong Kong emblems, the cartoons. But this season he’d cast his eyes wider. Mashing together references from Turkey, Egypt and India (see those unexpected harem pants). Lo is a very young designer – part of a new generation of millennial voices who think nothing of mashing and mixing imagery and styles in a Tumblr-esque way. His clash of cultures felt authentic and relevant to a generation who feel like global citizens, rather than inhabitants of a particular country or culture. Here’s hoping they’ll have the money to invest in a bit of Lo. In a season already dominated by accusations of cultural appropriation, such references could have hit the wrong note. But Lo casts sparkle and spirit over all he touches. This felt smart. And, as always, sweet.