In 2021, fashion has firmly entered a new era of knitwear. No longer are cashmere sweaters and cable knits the norm—designers are pushing the boundaries and perception of what, exactly, makes a piece knitwear. After a year of pandemic-induced sweat set obsessions, we’re all looking for something that’s still comfortable, only much cooler. Enter the emerging, London-based designer Chet Lo, who’s at the center of it all.
Lo’s designs strike the balance between cozy and futuristic; vibrant, spike-sculpted fabrics resemble the popcorn ripples from your favorite childhood stretchy top—on steroids. The shapes are inspired by Durian fruits (a nod to Lo’s Asian American heritage), and each piece is hand-knitted, in bright shades of neon blue, futuristic purple, and baby pink. The designer takes references from Japanese comics and vintage camp, such as Barbarella, when coming up with ideas for his clothing. What’s more, the New Yorker-turned-Londoner’s pieces have recently been worn by SZA, Willow Smith, and Michaela Coel.
Lo studied at Parsons before heading to the prestigious design school Central Saint Martins to study knitwear in between interning for Maison Margiela and Proenza Schouler. If the designer’s pieces look entirely new compared to any other piece of knitwear you’ve ever seen, that’s because they are. His signature 3-D texture took years to develop. “I was exploring many different techniques when I was at university. I was trying to figure out all the 3D knit possibilities just to create the most amount of textures,” he explains.
Much of the textural inspiration comes from TV—which he’s had plenty of time to study while in quarantine. “I was watching Neon Genesis Evangelion for so long during lockdown, and definitely felt so much of the patterns and colors came from that,” he says. “Since then, I’ve fallen into this deep hole of old Japanese films like Akira.”
As it turns out, starting his own line wasn’t even part of Lo’s initial plan. But it became a necessity as soon as he was asked to make custom pieces for Kylie Jenner. “I initially started this as just a hobby,” he says. “It was just an extension from my final collection from Central Saint Martins, and it took off. I didn’t picture myself having my own brand, I thought that I would have found a cushy job and just work in the industry but I quickly found myself feeling so fulfilled by working on my own business on the side.” As a result, Lo left the full-time job he had at the time to pursue his namesake brand.
A key aspect of Lo’s label is its aim toward size-inclusiveness; the ultra-stretchy pieces can fit various body types. One of his signature pieces, the Starry Night Evening Gown, is a calf length dress rendered in the designer’s special 3D texture, with an open back and elbow-length sleeves. “It is so ultra sexy, yet it covers your neck, and arms,” he says. “It also fits so many sizes, which is something that is really important to me. I just love the silhouette and really think it’s quite wearable but also incredibly extravagant.”
Lo belongs to a new generation of designers who are not only pushing innovation through materials and aesthetics, but also through big ideas. “My goal as a designer is really to push the boundaries of what people can and want to wear,” he says. “As a queer Asian American, I think it’s so important to tell our story and try to push the way people value our culture. I just try to dress for the most powerful strong people in the world and hope I can bring a smile to people’s faces.”