When London-based designer Han Chong (a Malaysian native and Central Saint Martins alumnus) broke away from Three Floor to strike out on his own nearly two years ago, little did he know that his fledgling brand Self-Portrait would go on to garner international recognition, celebrity fans (Rachel McAdams, Emily Blunt, Jessica Biel, and Kristen Stewart, to name a few), and a coveted spot at New York Fashion Week.
"I never thought everything would happen so fast," Chong tells InStyle. "For a small brand with a small budget, it's an honor to have celebrities wear Self-Portrait."
His first pinch-me moment? He names two: When London retailer Selfridges stocked Self-Portrait and everything sold out in three hours, and when his designs first launched on Net-a-Porter.com and blew out within a day. "That was when I was like, oh my god, this is real now; this is happening," he says. He credits the brand's compelling signature designs as an explanation of its success. And it's easy to see why—his use of cool architectural lace, peekaboo sheer panels, and feminine silhouettes is a new take on sexy.
"The girl wants to retain her dignity, but she still wants people to look at her," Chong says. And perhaps, he hopes, people see something in themselves in the designs, hence the name Self-Portrait, which plays on today's obsession in taking selfies and traditional self-reflecting images.
His spring/summer 2016 collection is no different, though it takes on a faster pace (his show in NYC is the first indicator). It's still feminine, he insists, but there's a shot of energy and modernity. Instead of neutrals, Chong manipulated poppy hues, like sky blue, citron yellow, burnt orange, and seafoam, integrating them into his trademark guipure separates, dresses, and one-pieces—each worn on models situated on a whited-out installation built from a mish-mash of props.
"It's photogenic," Chong laughs. We have to agree—it made for great Instagram material.