All successful designers have their signature details, the subtle and not-so-subtle little things that they become known for without hesitation. For London-based label, Chet Lo, it's the designer's distinctive spikes that adorn dresses, tops and headpieces which have become instantly recognizable among his burgeoning community of fashion fans. Now, the signature spikes are taking on a whole new form, as the lauded designer joins forces with Singapore's CHARLES & KEITH to make his footwear debut.
A collaborative collection with CHARLES & KEITH was inevitable, the designer tells us, after three seasons of working together on Chet Lo's fashion week shows. "It felt like a very natural progression when they reached out to us for a collaboration, I was so happy to do it and the timing felt ideal," Lo adds. Alongside the already-existing relationship, it's the shared love of culture that made the collaboration all the more special. "Because they are a Singaporean brand with such a strong presence in the East, it felt like the collaboration was the perfect way for me to be in touch with my roots and Asian culture," the designer explains.
Combining classic accessories with footwear styles (including ballet flats, to Lo's initial surprise,) the collection fuses the designer's signature spikes with elegant silhouettes, resulting in chic black handbags, pointed heels and headbands.
Ahead of the collection's official release, we caught up with Chet Lo to find out more about the brand's foray into footwear and why the collaboration marks such a pivotal moment for the Chinese designer.
chet lo charles and keith footwear spikes heels shoes black bags
Tell us a bit about how the collaboration with Charles & Keith came about, what were your initial thoughts?
We have been working with CHARLES & KEITH for quite some time now, they are such an incredible emerging brand and have been supporting me for the last three seasons, allowing us to use their footwear and accessories to incorporate into our shows. It felt like a very natural progression when they reached out to us for a collaboration, I was so happy to do it and the timing felt ideal.
Because they are a Singaporean brand with such a strong presence in the East, it felt like the collaboration was the perfect way for me to be in touch with my roots and Asian culture. It was also a great opportunity for us to make shoes and leverage their expertise in this area as we were never really able to properly make our own. Being able to see the products come to life in such a beautiful and professional manner... I am so happy with the result. It feels like a big accomplishment in my career and it's incredible to be able to expand the Chet Lo world a little bit more.
How did you go about translating your signature spikes into footwear? What was that process like and what did it involve?
For Chet Lo ready-to-wear, we normally develop the spikes with knit techniques which is a very delicate process. For this collaboration with CHARLES & KEITH, we had to find a more durable solution because of the nature of the product. Footwear has different requirements, and therefore we did a lot of sampling, different techniques were involved too, and we finally came across the embossing technique that encapsulates what we are about, but at the same time is more robust. We also experimented with some beautiful 3D-printed plexiglass techniques, which opened doors to creations that we would have never dreamt of without this collaboration.
It was a reflection of where we have been in the past, where we are now and where we want to be in our future. When referencing this bright fuchsia pink, that was very much a tribute to where we come from, as the Chet Lo brand started off as this incredibly girly colourful insane world. As I grow up and mature, I've gone a little bit darker and a bit more mature in my colour palette, I wanted to reflect that as well and it's another way for me to diversify and touch different kinds of clientele. We have the mature women that want to wear darker or sultry colours but we have also that younger girl who's obsessed with the pop of color and isn't afraid to wear it. In this collection, I feel we have the perfect balance between the two.
For this collaboration, it was definitely more about understanding that CHARLES & KEITH resonates with a wider audience, designing specific pieces that will appeal to different demographics. Consequently, we explored various silhouettes in the shoes -- a process that's totally new to me.
Personally, I never envision a woman wearing flats so it felt crazy to do a ballerina flat! I actually had to ask my team if they would wear flats, and I think this has pushed me to learn to think of the client first. That's very much what this collaboration was founded on and I learned a lot from CHARLES&KEITH, I'm super excited to go forward in this direction, even in my own collections.
chet lo charles and keith footwear spikes heels shoes black bags
What can you tell us about the approach to styling this collaboration, where were your influences and references coming from?
There are a lot of different types of styling that you can do with each products. For instance, we have the plexi glass heel that is made for more of an elegant evening look and then you'd have the ballerina flat which is better for a day-time look. It can still be very elegant and beautiful but I would pair it with a cute calf-length skirt, for example, so you can show off the ties and wear a tighter top.
For the mules, I would pair it with an extra-large t-shirt almost like a dress and just keep it very casual but at the same time sexy and fun. As for the headbands, they literally go with everything and are made to be worn all the time. Finally, with the bags, again we have a style with a cute bag charm on it which is perfect for your everyday and then we have a handbag that has a metal handle, which is perfect for an evening event -- or if you want to be more elegant and go out in town, its the bag you want to carry.
What's your favourite piece from the collection? How would you style it?
My favourite piece is definitely the plexi heel, it's incredibly sexy and I see her going out at night and being super confident. The design also has a feel of protection, if ever she is in danger, the spikes would play as her armour. I would pair the plexi heels with a long gown with a beautiful back slit so you can see the heel for a sexy and sultry look.
Finally, how do you see the collaboration evolving? Can fans expect to see a round two in the future?
Here's hoping! It was such a fantastic process working with CHARLES & KEITH and I would love to do a round two! I definitely think this was a fabulous working experience, I'm open to any possibilities in the future and I think there’s so much more that we can play on and touch on... I'm just as excited to see as you are!
by Navi Ahluwalia