Jack Sunnucks talks Sylvanian Families and Bunny MacDougal with ex-Fashion East designer Ryan Lo.
Ryan Lo’s spring collection was his last under the nurturing umbrella of Fashion East, the not-for-profit organisation helmed by Lulu Kennedy that gives a runway platform to young designers. Next season he’ll be showing, but as a presentation on models. Throughout his time with East he’s stayed true to his aesthetic, that of a sweetness so sickly it’s almost sinister. Ryan is very shy and hides behind a vividly bleached bob, shifting position constantly whilst he swigs from a litre bottle of ginger beer, pulling at his now infamous “PU**Y CUM ASK ME OUT” t-shirt.
When asked about his amazingly (non) offensive slogans, Ryan says he was watching a documentary about phone sex which made him laugh. He wondered what was offensive enough to get him on the Daily Mail, and “I thought ‘Fuck’ is just not enough, it’s just normal, so I came up with this and ‘Your Mouth Is My Toilet Paper”. My mum hates that t-shirt.” This is the subversive heart of the Ryan Lo label. This season he was inspired by the Sylvanian families he played with growing up, and thus the girls marched out with animal features painted on their faces. It was so incredibly frou frou and “fifilala” in this quite bizarre way, as if the toy animals had broken out of their plastic tree houses and gone clubbing, but weren’t really into it. He’s always inspired by dolls and toys, especially by the Blythe dolls so popular in Asia, saying: “There’s something a bit sick in a way with the eyes and the proportion. They look innocent but they’re not that innocent, toys for young adults rather than teenagers I guess.”
Ryan didn’t always want to work in fashion, in fact: “I didn’t want to work in fashion at all, I just wanted to buy clothes”, at which point he dissolves in a fit of giggles. After finishing school and having the dreaded conversation with his mum about what to do with his life, he elected to come and study at the London College of Fashion, having never been to the city before. At the time he was only 16, which gives a clue to the grit at the centre of his soft-seeming universe. Tellingly, one of his TV icons is Sex and the City arch bitch and matriarch Bunny MacDougal, Charlotte York’s pitbull of a mother-in-law who clads herself mainly in hideous pastels. “She wears all these pastel colours and sweet things but she’s a bitch, that’s quite Ryan Lo. And, my girl, she’s more slutty and out there.”
One of his inspirations has always been Sonia Rykiel: “She did like sex toys and lacy bras… the showgirl spirit, it’s French and a bit poetic with stockings and suspenders.” Like Rykiel, Ryan tries to avoid trends. “I always know what I want to do for the next two seasons, but then I’m usually one season behind trends! It’s either really weird or really on-trend! Sometimes I think I should skip one season ahead.”
What makes Ryan’s designs so exciting and different to current modes, is that they’re decidedly “occasion”-oriented, and not really for popping to the shop. “I’m slowly expanding to the everyday, but I guess it’s for when you go to Claridges to have tea; for ladies who lunch. I quite like ladies who lunch. Very Uptown.” I ask him if there’s strength to be found in looking like a birthday cake, if a woman so saccharine can survive. “I think so. It’s multi personality basically, so she’s a bit grumpy and only sometimes sweet – she has a strong personality, she’s not boring.” Sounds like the designer himself – sweet and grumpy.
All clothing Ryan Lo S/S14, Tan Leather Clogs by Louis Vuitton
Photographer Liam Warwick
Fashion Editor Danielle Emerson
Words Jack Sunnucks
Hair Stylist Hiroshi Matsushuta
Makeup Artist Thom Walker
Fashion Assistance Toni-Blaze Ibekwe
Makeup Assistance Anna Richie
Model Daisy Davidson