Ray Chu is a Taiwanese designer who established his eponymous A-gender RTW brand in 2016, and his latest collection "Chapter 111 - 1 heart you" showed as part of London Fashion Weeks SS22 digital programme.
Working to a staunchly sustainable ethos where he only produces clothing to order, Ray designs genderless pieces from deadstock fabrics, organic cotton and vegan leather. Pieces that are beauitfully crafted with an innovative aesthetic. Pieces created with intentionality that empower and embolden the wearer, pieces that are ethically sourced and environmentally responsible.
For SS22, Ray Chu focused on the energies and euphoria which are released by that feeling of being in love and the intimate fantasies which accompany these feelings. Collaborating with artist Loli Yang, Ray created a melting heart motif to exemplify these desires which is applied throughout the collection in printing, decor, embroidery patches, and cut outs. The motif is also seen on the array of accessories, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings which compliment these bold and beautiful designs.
The core message of the collection is to celebrate the purity of love and the incredibly diverse global understandings of borderless and genderless fluidity. As a designer committed to ampifying the LGBTQ voice wherever possible, the fashion film which he made to showcase "I heart you" eschews the usual model casting format. Instead it features an LGBTQ cast drawn from across various different industries, reminding us of the importance of inclusivity. I spoke to Ray about this latest collection, about the social and environmental concerns which inform everything that he does, and his hopes and aspirations for the future.
Congratulations on your SS22 collection Chapter 111 “I heart you” which showed as part of London Fashion Weeks digital platform. What inspired this collection and what message do you want the title and the fashion film which showcased it to convey to the viewers?
This collection was inspired by a trip in Thailand with an ex and that specific afternoon sky,like the dreamy purple. It was the most amazing time thought we are no longer together now and I was quite sad about it but what I remember is the most beautiful moment and now I have moved on and am ready. I heart you could both mean the previous relationship I love you and you broke my heart and my heart melted like crying. And the new dating person I like you because you make heart melt with the kisses and hugs.
I loved the gender fluid aesthetic which runs through all the pieces. How important to you is it to design with this intention and to use fashion as a way to break down gender stereotypes?
It’s really important and I regard it is crucial to let all people to be seen even thought my platform might not be that big at the moment. It’s not just genders, I hope my brand could expand more to all ages as well.
A melting heart motif is central to the theme of the collection and features in the stunning jewellery, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings. I understand that it was a result of a collaboration with artist Loli Yang. How did that collaboration come about?
We have known each other for a while and we both think this was time we could do something together. The artist has done something and haven’t showed this to public as it’s something very private and finally she braved up and also drew another new artwork for my collection. The story behind the artwork was a longing for another person and a searching for being loved and fantasies picturing being intimate with someone. The “69 position” was her original artwork and “the spoon me” was a new one after hearing from my story.
The melting heart could also be a metaphor for the genderless fluidity that imbues all your work. How important was it to not only create pieces with that intention but to also feature LGBTQ individuals from different industries in the films cast?
The idea of featuring LGBTQS+ individuals from different industries was because they are living within our society everywhere and also, I want my clothes to be much more inclusive. And I have been working with not just models for my label. And for the future, we will continue working with all kinds of talent than just models.
I loved the colour palette which as well as inky black predominately featured pastel lavender and buttery lemon. Was the inspiration for this palette seasonal or were there other motivations?
Each season we try to add a new note to our collection with existing colors - red, black, yellow with different shade & tones that are our key colors throughout our collections. The reason of using pastel lavender is from my inspiration and also, we are living in a time that we want serenity and center peace.
You use CGI in your fashion films and in “I heart you” the opening and closing scenes show CGI characters making love. What is it about CGI that makes you embrace that medium and return to it?
International traveling could still be difficult for us abroad, The best way to keep connection with loved ones. if in different countries, could still be using social applications and we might need to use our imaginations to fantasize even.
How do you want the person who wears Ray Chu to feel about themselves and the world around them when they wear one of your creations?
I’d like them to feel confident and comfortable and feel sexy and they already are and my piece is just to add on that note. Also, they can wear something sexy and nice while it’s sustainable and inclusive.
Sustainability is key to everything that you do and as well as using vegan leathers and deadstock you also make your garments to order. How important to you is it to have a staunchly sustainable and transparently ethical footprint, and what more do you think the fashion industry should do to combat “greenwashing”?
Take my label as an example, I would like to source better quality vegan leather - like plant based but we are also facing the fact that means the cost would be higher and we need to strike a balance between. There is a phoneme that the “shopping bag” has be over produced from lots of brand during fashion week. It's unnecessary, unless all material is recycled/ up cycled and can be recycled. Or using of natural fibers could be bad to environment when the growing method is unethical or indirectly such as wastes a lot of water. Or the way to make it from raw material to fibers to fabric includes using chemicals that damage the environment. For example, this season, back in Taipei, we had a collaboration with a local company on a project creating a shopping bag that is completely made from recycled clothing fibers and recycled plastic and can be recycled again after use.
Having produced such a beautiful SS22 collection, what plans and ambitions do you have for the brand as we head towards the end of 2021 and into 2022?
We would continue on participating LFW and work on something that’s meaningful and hopefully we could do a physical presentation in London later in 2022!
Huge thanks to Ray for taking the time to talk to us in what we appreciate was a super busy and hectic time for the brand after the success of London Fashion Week.
With the UK having fully reopened, these newly found freedoms have manifested themselves in a desire to discard the leisure wear which cocooned us for eighteen months, and look for sensual and sophisticated pieces to accompany this sense of liberation. Those searching for bold, beautifully crafted, ethically sourced and environmentally conscious designs would be well served by looking to Ray Chu for pieces that will embolden us as we embrace the unapologetic escapism of these post-lockdown days. You can connect with the brand here https://raychustudios.com/ and on IG here https://www.instagram.com/raychuchu/?hl=en