Louis Shengtao Chen—a Central Saint Martins graduate now based in Chongqing, China—found himself listening to the Frank Sinatra classic “Fly Me to the Moon” this season. The song was on repeat so often that Chen ended up basing his whole collection on it, focusing on the idea of escapism and clothes that evoke this free spirit. “To fly out to the middle of nowhere, you can hold all of your hopes [and dreams]—with no boundaries,” Chen said.
The designer’s spring assortment includes pieces that are dreamy and ethereal indeed, with finishings he describes as “fresh and fragile.” The opening look, for instance, is a dainty georgette slip dress with lace trim, but he juxtaposed it with a bit of toughness: The bust was embroidered with the words Adrian’s Cupid, a replica of Chen’s chest tattoo. “I tried to bring some rock-and-roll spirit into things that are seen as quite romantic,” he said.
Chen worked with georgette across a variety of staples, from sleek skirts to frilly blouses. The standouts were his patchwork dresses, a technical feat given that the fragile fabric is not easy to cut and sew. Another evening dress had a velvet bodice up top but was slashed to reveal a lilac georgette underlay. “We actually destroyed the dress before the show,” said Chen. “I like sabotaging something stereotypically beautiful.”
Last season, Chen focused on expanding his assortment of more casual daytime pieces, and he had those for spring as well, though they still qualified as dressy (as was the case with a leather overcoat with golden embroidery). His version of a work blazer featured a pink-and-white print done in collaboration with the digital artist Greenduck. “I love the print because it’s so sexual and erotic,” Chen said. “You can vaguely see two people’s faces touching each other.” His denim pieces, meanwhile, were laser engraved with washes that resembled the texture of lace. “I always like vintage finishings [on denim],” he said. His denim ruffled gown—with matching printed jersey sleeves, which are detachable—took deliberate cues from Britney Spears and the blazing Y2K craze.
Chen truly shines when he leans into theatrical eveningwear, which his finale gowns certainly did. Riffing off his love of cone shapes (he added them to heels and mini bags too), the organza cone gowns looked almost spiky and 3D. He paired them with thick leather corsets and envisioned someone avant-garde like Doja Cat wearing them. “[Fashion] doesn’t necessarily need to be beautiful and classic,” he said. “I want the girl to feel like she can be a fairy—but she can rock.”