Ryan Lo explains how to look hot in the coldest season.
Despite debuting a full womenswear collection at London Fashion Week this year and being on the brink of a big, grownup career at 23, Ryan Lo still feels, dresses and designs like a kid. Shelves in his studio are lined with Hello Kitty trinkets, Pocky boxes and nameless plastic dolls; he loves pop culture references and uses the word “tacky” to describe everything he admires. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Lo moved to London seven years ago and credits the city’s gray gloom for spawning his candy-coated fantasy world full of elaborate ruffles, frothy knits, tinsel and lots and lots of mesh. Of course, pink and purple pom-pom knitwear is not always the easiest look to pull off, so Lo gave us some personal tips for dressing imaginatively during the winter doldrums.
As a kid from a conservative family in Hong Kong, Lo got his fashion kicks by customizing his own clothes. “I painted and slashed holes [in them], but it was horrible,” he says. This impulse eventually led him to a vast treasure trove of YouTube tutorial videos. “I’ve always wanted to be a grandmother,” he says. “Doing patchwork cushions and hand knitting, crocheting—all that kind of stuff. I started learning how to knit watching all these German and Irish housewives posting knitting techniques. There are tons of DIY videos out there.” Lo doesn’t knit in a conventional way; he combinines techniques, favoring tulle, Lycra or polyester as his preferred materials over yarn. If you can’t find stuff you really want to wear, take things into your own hands and make it yourself.
Almost every item in Lo’s collection is in a different shade of rosy pink. “Pink is my color,” he says. “Always, every season. Pink is everywhere: Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette, Sleeping Beauty’s ballgown, Barbie, Tracey Emin’s art, Hello Kitty, Sailor Moon, Sex and the City, Mövenpick strawberry ice cream. So why not?” Adding a little kitsch can keep things fresh. “Society can only accept someone under 10 using a plastic Hello Kitty wallet,” he says. “I think of myself as a rebel—funny and super, super tacky. I like that.”
“I always like Björk. In general, my customer is a woman who likes to spoil herself, in a kind of sweet and girly yet femme fatale kind of way,” Lo says. “I was part of the BoomBox generation. Back in 2006 to 2008, it was like Studio 54 in London. Gareth Pugh and Charles Anastase were there; the door person was usually Cozette McCreery from the London knitwear label Sibling. Everyone dressed up or made their own outfits—especially for Sunday nights.” Check out Lo’s lookbooks with the model’s face obscured by crayon-colored wigs, and you’ll see it’s Lo himself modeling all the women’s clothes. “I love to get dressed up!” he says. “Full on wigs, layers, everything.” Doing drag in your own lookbook may be the wryest way to keep things subversive and exciting.
Lo’s one-word cure-all for keeping things fun in the winter? Texture. “You [dress] to keep yourself warm, so it can’t be a statement cocktail dress,” he says. “It has to be a coat, like a big, colorful fur piece, or a big chunky scarf that you can wrap around your neck.” His fall lookbook is overflowing with clustered tulle, melted mohair and collaged tinsel. “This collection was really inspired from all the Oriental cultures: kimono fabrics, a bit of Chinoiserie, he says. “But then, on top of that, a Paris is Burning kind of thing. My favorite piece from the collection is a red coat-dress with white ties on the side. It’s three or four layers of transparent fabric, and then underneath, there’s a kind of traditional Chinese fabric, and on top I do my own embroidery in silk. I do have one winter essential—tights, tights, tights. Even under pants, because it’s just so cold.” Lo doesn’t let volume hold him back, adding layer upon layer. “In the winter, it’s so moody all the time. You want a bit of life.”