Hong Kong-born fashion designer Ryan Lo has found success in London, but he longs to return East

The designer’s showing at Shanghai Fashion Week raised his profile and rekindled his desire to connect with his cultural roots

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 May, 2016, 3:43pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 May, 2016, 12:30pm

Fashion designer Ryan Lo is on mission to return home. Born and raised in Hong Kong, he moved to London for university, and that’s where he now operates his eponymous label. His time in London has allowed him to find his footing in a city famous for nurturing fashion talent. He has not only found a receptive audience with his participation with Fashion East, but was also a semi-finalist for the LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) prize. And he has done so by channelling his cultural roots.

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“I guess with this latest collection – not just with this season but throughout every collection – there’s always a bit of hometown nostalgia. I’m here as a British designer but ultimately I’m a Chinese designer,” he says.

This underlying desire to return to his roots was obvious earlier this year during Shanghai Fashion Week, where he showed his autumn-winter collection. Models paraded in a sickly sweet concoction of cherry blossom motifs and lacquer reds with the Mulan soundtrack playing in the background. The clichés and stereotypes, however trite, feel apt for someone who longs for home.

“My aim here in Shanghai is to raise my profile in China. Before, I only knew two names from the Chinese fashion industry – Leaf Greener and Lucia Liu. They are both very influential women, but it taught me that I need to learn more and improve my exposure in this country,” he explains.

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Lo is stocked in a variety of stores, including Net-a-Porter, Dover Street in London and New York, Commes des Garçons’ trading museum in Paris, and a few stores in Japan. That said, he is looking to expand his reach in the East by talking to buyers and stores on the mainland. He is especially happy that Dong Liang in Shanghai has also confirmed that it will stock some of his pieces.

But while things may seem rosy for Lo, his career was not always so smooth. There are some parts of it that he is a bit embarrassed about.

“Do you want to know the whole story? It’s not very chic, but I’m going to say it. I basically had to redo my final year at London College of Fashion after they failed me. And the second time round, I thought that I had really nailed the assignment. However, they didn’t even put me in the graduate press show. And after I graduated, I applied for the Central Saint Martin’s masters programme and got rejected,” he says.

Despite these setbacks, Lo took a leap of faith and applied for Fashion East, figuring that he had nothing to lose. Surprisingly enough, he was accepted into the lineup. Nearly four years on, Lo can say that getting into the programme was transformational.

“Before Fashion East, I didn’t know anything about line sheets and costings, or any of the logistical matters. Now I understand that it’s about making the collection, doing the show, producing the pieces, delivering them to buyers. following up with press and editorial etc. For me, these are things you can’t learn from college. You have to learn them from experience, and Fashion East gave me that platform to do all of these things.”

With the momentum and belief that his career is on the right track, Lo’s next step is to ensure that his young business is able to function and thrive in a financially sound and sustainable way.

“Maybe one day, if my business grows big enough, I can have other offices as well. Obviously, I go back to Hong Kong once a year, so it would be nice to have an office there. And maybe later we can also have a Tokyo office, a New York office, a Paris office, we’ll conquer the world!”