Calvin Luo skipped the whole Paris Fashion Week shebang this season. He has bigger plans. The designer opened his fourth store in China, and the second in Shanghai, earlier this year, and will open two more in the coming months. He’s also in the early stages of planning his 10th anniversary next year. A homecoming show in China after years showing in New York and Paris is not out of the question, though Luo didn’t get this far by showing his hand all in one go.
Luo builds his collections like an editor would a fashion spread—lest we forget he’s the founder of Rouge Fashion Book China, the biannual print glossy. There’s always an underlying story to his lineups, a common denominator of treatments or materials, and something unexpected to keep things interesting.
The story this season: a study of the Italian sculptor Raffaele Monti’s famous Veiled Lady (1845), which is revered for the masterful way the artist conveyed the delicate cascading of fabric. The common factor: twists, tucks, and folds decorating every piece. The curveball: Rather than focus his sculptural efforts on chiffons and silks, Luo played with wool suitings, tech fabrics, denims, knits, and even some lived-in leather.
“Normally, when people talk about draping they think of the soft,” said Luo at a walkthrough at his newest store, “but I wanted to play with all kinds of different fabrications. It was a challenge, but I think it looks quite interesting.” That it does. His motorcycle leather pants and curvaceous jeans are the kinds of bottoms the cool kids line up for here in Shanghai, while the tiny tucks and folds on the side seams of tailored minis and coats decorated with built-in belts are likely to grab the attention of the ladies shopping across the street at Dior and Givenchy. Somewhere in the middle are Luo’s cashmere sweaters, some with double layers consisting of a tank under a micro cardigan and others roomier and tacked at the chest to create the illusion of bust cups. Most ambitious was his tailoring. The back of a hefty felted wool coat was twisted like a candy wrapper, both seductive and quirky, and a fantastic men’s blazer was cut with a high ’90s lapel and its right side pulled and stretched all the way to the left side seam. These would be beguiling styling tricks in the pages of a magazine, but chez Luo they’re built into his design.
Luo is a narrative-driven designer, but his clothes are just as compelling hanging in his stores as they are all done up in his lookbooks and on his runways.