Those who learnt of Ryan Lo’s inspirations and show themes, without seeing his final collections, would be forgiven for calling the designer desperate. He is obsessed with love. Enamoured with romance. Head over heels for girl meets boy cliches. He is the Bridget Jones of fashion - but with less big pants and more cute pink frills. But for S/S 16 his woman had found her man. She’s happy. Content. Grown up. That explains why this collection felt maturer and more considered than ever. His woman was content. Sure, one could argue that it’s regressive to see collections built around the notion that a woman’s main aim in life is the seduction of men - and that she’s ‘achieved’ when she gets one to put an O Thongthai ring on it - but there’s enough of an air of the outsider about Lo that his collection never runs the risk of transporting us back to the high fashion days of old when fancy frocks were bought by rich men for their trophy wives. There’s not much fantasy left in fashion these days, so it’s nice to see Lo exploring his obsessions. This feels like it’s about subcultures, teen fantasies and weirdness, rather than gender cliches.
For this season, amongst many of his typical pop culture references, Lo had been musing on Sugar Sugar Rune, a manga by Moyoco Anno which became a TV show. The plot revolves around two witches competing for the hearts of suitors. Modern! Still, the witch reference is apt. Lo’s S/S 16 women were tricky, intriguing and magical, not simply simpering saccharine passive creatures. The clashes in those two sides of their personalities - keen for love, but tough and odd at the same time - and the resultant tensions in the collection, were what made this show intriguing. Yes, prints were in part infantile and chintzy, but they also recalled the retro elegance of classic Celia Birtwell/Ossie Clark gowns. Ryan Lo loves his sugar, but this collection had enough spice to keep the taste fresh.