“It’s very much about the feeling of an orgasm, but not in an erotic or sexual way, but the feeling of climax,” said Chen. “To me, the climax is not the ending, but the process itself.” He equated this idea to a metaphor of a pupa metamorphosing into a moth, explaining that it’s the concept of transformation that he finds most inspiring.
Louis Shengtao Chen feels his way through his every collection. The 2023 LVMH Prize Semifinalist returned to the Shanghai Fashion Week runway this season after a year away. For spring, Chen said that he ruminated on the idea of change. But rather than focus on the end result, he built this lineup around what he described as the “climax of creation” and the “rush and tickles of excitement” when beauty is uncovered.
Transformation is something he explored literally in the pacing of his collection by toying between high-octane glamour and more approachable ideas, but far more nimbly in the way his silhouettes fluctuated between exploding from the body and embracing it closely. By now it’s clear that Chen can cut a fabulous evening gown and can find the restraint to keep things simple. What was interesting to observe here were his more commercially-minded propositions. The winners were a blouse and denim mini dress both draped at the bodice to emulate a moth, and a couple of sheer knit separates with spherical metallic embellishments. A run of pretty car-wash fringe styles with diagonal draping rounded out the lineup, but easy silk bras and skirts could have been edited out. Balancing his excitement for creation and keeping his collections tight will be key moving forward.
There is a severity to Chen’s work (see a head-to-toe red look featuring a crumpled skirt, or the crystal-embellished boning structures around some of his evening frocks) that is offset by the lightness of his playful but exact draping. This is a dichotomy the designer is aware of: “You have something quite sensuous, something orgasmic, diva, glam, and also something sharp,” he said. Sitting somewhere in the middle was a sexy, frilly double-layered frock cut in blush and tan georgette. It preserved Chen’s dramatic flair while suggesting a developing eye for making a commercial and covetable dress. Expanding on this space should serve him well—Chen is a pupa just about ready to leave his cocoon.