The title of Chet Lo’s latest collection was 鹹濕: a pair of Cantonese characters that roughly translate as salty, pornographic, or dirty. The ambiguity of those words in combination was very much the point: While Chet Lo’s clothes have always held a certain brand of off-kilter sex appeal (not least for the figure-hugging properties of his signature clingy mesh popcorn technique), this season he fully leaned into the brand’s racier side.
But not in the way you might initially expect. “I was reflecting on my sexuality, especially as a queer person of color, and how I never saw Asian people represented in porn, or at least not in a way that wasn’t fetishized,” he said. “The title might translate as something perverted and dirty, but it’s also a story of sexual liberation. Sex is natural, but I grew up being so ashamed of it, so being able to embrace it through my designs has been a real turning point.”
To do so, Lo lifted from some very literal source material, and then turned it inside out. Namely, he took prints from ancient Chinese erotic art and Japanese shunga—an artistic tradition that reached its height during the Edo period, and often featured depictions of same-sex couples—then abstracted them as halftones across satin devoré tops or overlaid onto knits. Elsewhere, a handful of looks featured lace-up details inspired by the Japanese erotic rope play shibari, culminating in a intricate woven breastplate inspired by Chinese knotting. (Particularly ingenious was the hair, by Anna Cofone, which took the shibari influence and transformed it into sculptural tentacles that towered about the models’ heads.)
Aside from these friskier details, there were some newly elevated looks in the mix, including an especially gorgeous chiffon and silk devoré bias-cut gown in cornflower blue with a swishy scarf attached that rippled behind the model as she walked. “I know the brand started off being very edgy and Gen Z, but I really want to develop it into something that has a luxury feel,” said Lo. “I want to make clothes for a whole variety of people.” If the front row was anything to go by, Lo’s popcorn dresses remain a perennial favorite—but he proved he has plenty of other tricks up his sleeve, too.
This article was originally published on Vogue Runway.