Self-Portrait, the womenswear label launched by Central Saint Martins alum Han Chong in late 2013, has already achieved the kind of publicity of which most young fashion brands can only dream. Aside from dressing Hollywood favorites like Rachel McAdams, Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington and Kristen Stewart for appearances, Chong has found support in top-tier buyers like Bergdorf Goodman, Matches Fashion and Net-a-Porter, as well as in customers who are clamoring for his sublimely detailed, ultra-feminine pieces that ring in at a contemporary price point.
Following a months-long streak of red carpet success, Chong decided that it was time to stage his first proper Fashion Week presentation, which took place in New York on Saturday afternoon. Models lounged on an all-white set meant to look like an abandoned (yet romantic) mansion, and an impressive percentage of show-goers displayed their support for Chong by wearing Self-Portrait to take in the new collection. Although the brand is London-based, he took the clothing stateside for both a change of scenery and a jolt of fresh inspiration. "I wanted to give Self-Portrait a bit of a push and a different vibe [for spring]," he explained. "New York is modern, it’s full of energy — I wanted to inject that into the collection."
This season, Chong introduced the Self-Portrait woman to some new elements like acid-bright colors, patterns inspired by vintage photographs and fabrics that his team developed in-house. He sees his customer as someone who's always on the go, so versatility — specifically, the ability to dress each look up and down — is key. With their clashing colors and textures, many looks from the spring collection make a very loud statement, but that's all part of the designer's main goal. "The Self-Portrait girl is not scared to stand out — these pieces catch attention when you're walking down the street," he said.
As for whether Chong felt extra pressure at New York Fashion Week considering how much red carpet buzz he's garnered, he claims that nothing could be further from his mind. "I don’t think too much about that; celebrity is so important for a small brand and people look to them as role models, but when I'm designing, I don't have that in my head," he explained. For now, he plans to keep his focus on steadily growing his business with "real" women in mind, without buckling under the pressure of early success. "It's moving so fast — my office needs to cope with that," Chong said. "It's important for me to build a base that's really strong and to do it well. I don't want to take on too much just yet."