The Asian-American knitwear innovator has been preparing his SS22 collection ‘The Splash’ as an artist-in-residence at The Standard, London. Chet speaks about his dizzying year of success and the gang he’s made along the way.
When Chet Lo launched his eponymous label after graduating from Central Saint Martins last year, the brand name wasn’t an afterthought to a student collection, but an intention from the start. “My entire brand is an extension of my identity and who I am as a person, so why not celebrate that?” he says. “I didn’t want to hide who I was, that wasn’t my mission. My mission has always been to design things that I like, and just create a mood, you know?”
The 24-year-old designer’s spiked knitwear structures became instantly recognizable thanks to an ambitious graduate collection that rapidly transformed into celebrity clients including Kylie Jenner and Doja Cat, and a stockist order with prominent London concept store 50m.
“That was when I hired my first intern, Sophia,” says Chet, wiping the figurative sweat from his brow as he recounts the brand’s humble beginnings. “It was great, just having someone else to stress with while we were doing the orders for 50m. We worked all day around my kitchen table to get the order done, we had 20 units to make which doesn’t even sound like that much now but when it’s just you and your knitting machine, and you’ve got a due date of a month, it’s a lot.”
Over the past twelve months, Chet’s team has grown to include his studio manager Polly, and Eman, Saffy and Frankie, a group of knitwear and design students and graduates he connected with through Instagram. He explains the app has become a vital tool for recruitment as he shares an unfiltered view into his design processes and his daily life.
“If someone already follows me then they already know what the brand is and they get it, and they know me so they know my shenanigans and that it can get a bit crazy,” he laughs. “But I’m open whenever somebody emails me and they’re passionate about working with us, I love to interview them to see if they match the vibe, you know? Because you can have the greatest skills and all of that, but you have to fit into the family. You have to be able to laugh and scream and cry with us.”
Cultivating a friendship among the group while nurturing their talent has been key to Chet, who himself trained under industry heavyweights Proenza Schouler and John Galliano at Maison Margiela. “Back when we were working from my house, when the team was forming initially it was really quiet while we worked,” he says. “It was fine for a start, but I wanted them to open up. It started to click when I’d make everyone some lunch while we were working and then when I would walk upstairs I could hear their laughter echoing through the apartment, and that’s when I knew.”
Chet understands the importance of having friends as your peers in a cutthroat industry, as he currently shares his artist residency at The Standard with fellow designer and CSM alum Harris Reed. He explains, “I want them to be really close with each other, I want them to talk all the time and actually hang out. I trust them to get the work done, I just want to make sure they’re having a good time.”
“If they weren’t here, I wouldn’t be able to get anything done, so I have so much respect for them,” Chet gushes as his team poke their heads around the door frame and their infectious giggles fill the hotel hallways. “Every day I’m so proud, just walking in and seeing these faces and laughing with them. Last week we got to look at the completed collection together for the first time and it felt monumental.”
Every day I’m so proud, just walking in and seeing these faces and laughing with them.
When did you first meet Chet and how did you get involved with his work?
Eman Dickens: I started working with Chet in February and I was mostly doing press emails – because of COVID-19 we had to work remotely, so I only met everyone in person properly a few months ago.
How would you describe working at Chet Lo in one word?
Polly Baudains: Chaotic
What is your favourite part of your typical working day?
Saffy Gilbert: Right first thing in the morning. It’s always such positive vibes, everyone’s laughing and chatting. It sets you up for a good day.
What do you think is the best asset that you bring to this team?
Frankie Lloyd: My technical skills, which I really didn’t think were that great before starting, but practising them every day has really helped me a lot.
What is something you’ve learned about yourself through working with Chet?
Polly Baudains: How adaptable I am? Just from learning all the new techniques, and getting to meet and work with new people all the time, it’s made me much more flexible and confident.
The best part of our day is right first thing in the morning. It’s always such positive vibes, everyone’s laughing and chatting. It sets you up for a good day.
Saffy Gilbert: I’ve learned a lot about design and creativity, that things don’t always have to be perfect, it’s about learning from the process.
What has been the proudest moment working with this team so far?
Frankie Lloyd: Anytime we do something press-related we usually wear Chet’s clothes, and making them is such a collaborative effort that it feels really special to wear them together.
Eman Dickens: Just knowing that he started this in his bedroom and looking at where we are now, especially just before fashion week, it’s amazing to see.
How would you like to see your team evolve?
Chet Lo: Obviously, I’d love to see the team grow, but I’m also excited to see them moving on and doing bigger and better things. I just want to see everyone really happy, taking on more responsibilities, trying new things and growing.
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