For two summer weddings a week apart in the mountains of Austria and the South of France, I needed a dress that was romantic, affordable, and – most importantly – travel-friendly. After scouring the internet, I landed on burgundy floral guipure-lace number, with thin straps, a scalloped neckline and waist-hugging A-line skirt. And, you could fold it up and throw it in a carryon without having to worry about wrinkles. The price tag? $300.
It came courtesy of Self-Portrait, Han Chong’s mid-priced and elegant eveningwear label, which he founded in 2013. Intricate lacework, subtle cutouts and asymmetric designs have become his signature look, which has quickly caught on with the likes of Madonna, Naomi Watts and Beyonce.
And though Chong’s dresses have been the runaway hit, for Spring 2017, he’s “moving on to a different place,” he said backstage after his show on Saturday. “More separates, it just felt right to me.”
There were still plenty of covetable dresses, but there were also scalloped crepe shorts, pinstripe shirts with lace insets, and patent leather trousers. Plus, an army green utility miniskirt with a lace underlay and jacquard denim capris. For Chong, it’s all about the fabrics. New this season is a light suede that's laser cut so it looks almost like lace. “We test out a lot of different fabrics, and like a puzzle, put them together, and see how they work,” he said.
“Women don’t always wear dresses,” continued Chong. “They wear separates to work.” And at the Self Portrait price point, women could wear these separates everyday. Across the board, prices max out at $600 – but the intricate designs look far, far more expensive then that. “I’m not so greedy,” quipped Chong. “We have to do a lot of research. We go to a lot of fabric mills and get the best quality of the price point we want to retail. There’s a lot of research, a lot of adjustment.” Basically, it’s about putting in the extra legwork. “If we like something really amazing, then how can we make it slightly cheaper,” he said.
In Europe, my Self-Portrait dress garnered loads of compliments. The only downside to my affordable, black-tie worthy garment? Two other girls were wearing the same one. I’d say that means Chong is doing it right.
Watch 24 hours with Thakoon, before his New York Fashion Week show: