Ray Chu is a Taiwanese designer who established his eponymous A-gender RTW brand in 2016 and who has delivered a series of subsequent collections which are taking that name to an increasingly wide audience.
Working to a staunchly sustainable ethos where he only produces clothing to order, Ray uses deadstock fabrics, organic cotton and vegan leather to create pieces that are both innovative and empowering. Pieces that are genderless but far from lacking in identity. Pieces that make a bold, powerful statement that are beautifully crafted and designed to embolden the wearer.
As the pandemic necessitated the need for designers to present their collections digitally, Ray embraced the fashion film genre with ferocious intent enlisting the famous, some might say infamous, Taiwanese movie director Wang Yu to make the short film which showcases his AW21 “Centipede Love” collection. Rays sleek, sexy, sassy garments are highlighted in a cinematically captivating short where film noir meets futuristic CGI meets art-house movie, all to the accompaniment of a hauntingly atmospheric jazz soundtrack.
We spoke to Ray shortly after London Fashion Week to ask him about the collection, his inspirations and the wider cultural landscape, which informs his creative process.
Your AW21 collection ‘Centipede Love’ was showcased through a stunning video at London Fashion Week, a fusion of real-world and CGI. Tell us more about the decision to merge elements of film noir and CGI.
We have always wanting to do something new and since last year we did a collaboration with an artist and we also did a small CGI clip of showing the product. That seeded in my mind, and I have been thinking when can I actually make it bigger and put to the world’s view. And, I had my debut on LFW, which was a perfect moment. Doing this is also telling our audience that we are ready to move forward and explore newer possibility to showcase our view.
Through this video, you have had a platform to present your brilliant collection and also the brand’s ethos and sentiments. Having used film and CGI to such striking effect, do you think this is a medium that you will continue to use for future collections, or is there nothing like a live fashion show?
I will continue doing this and look for something more interactive.
Ray Chu is an A-gender RTW brand; when approaching a collection from a genderless perspective, does it change the design process and impose limitations, or do you find this allows you more freedom in your creativity?
It definitely allows me to explore more and complete freedom. The only one thing we need to pay attention to is the biologically difference to make the clothes fits better so for some styles the pattern might still be different due to biological differences.
You have expressed that sustainability is fundamental to the future of your brand. You use vegan leathers, deadstock and make clothing to order. How does the use of sustainable materials inform your design process? What are the challenges and pluses of designing a collection in this way, and what advice would you give to other designers wishing to adopt this approach?
The challenge is that if there is not enough dead stock fabric then we cannot sell more, and we will stop sell that item. And sometimes, we face problems like the defect of the dead stock fabric. The plus is that we don’t produce extra fabric to meet MOU from factory and it’s eco-friendly to earth as we only produce when there is an order.
What are the key elements that enable you to strike a good balance between sustainability and viability?
Having a strong team of sourcing is key. And moving forward, we can base on what we have and start to make it happen.
The Ray Chu brand aesthetic stems from the fusion of traditional craftsmanship and contemporary design. Which designers and techniques from the past have influenced you as a designer, and how important do you feel it is to champion traditional techniques?
My main inspirations are Thierry Mugler and Alexander McQueen. I try to spin them together in some sort of way so that the end product becomes more contemporary. These two geniuses centre my designer exploration and although I am neither. They are true in spirit to my brand aesthetic.
The AW21 video explores the premise of an evolving Asian culture with long-repressed sexuality now allowed an awakening. Why did you decide to explore this theme for your latest collection, and how does it reflect in the design elements? What do you think is the catalyst for change and acceptance that allows this generation to express themselves more openly?
Absolutely. In Taiwan, we passed same-sex marriage just last year – but for as long as I can remember, the idea of, let’s call it, gender-neutral has never been an issue. Much like Japan and Korea, the stereotypical way of considering oneself has been losing gain…in general, in greater Asia, acceptance of genderless/borderless/uni is something that is not even really a mainstream conversation anymore. I am so proud to be part of this generation of movers.
There is a strong sense of inclusivity in your work; your video promotes not just freedom of sexual expression but global understanding without borders and genders. What do you think the world/fashion could do more to be more progressive in this area? Are there any other causes you’d like to address with future collections?
I just think, be yourself, do what you want. You know, who’s a government or a single entity to tell you what to do. Make nice things, explore the future, reference the past. All are acceptable and, in my view, totally natural.
The ’80s and ’90s greatly influence your work; what is it about these decades that resonates so much with you?
EVERYTHING. We do not have a similar culture nowadays – not in the slightest. Glitzy has turned Hollywood-promo, Reality TV killed everything, to name but a few. The 80s and 90s were pure creativity, even if they were a little hindered by masquerades.
You’ve collaborated on an earring collection with Gemma and another with Dadiogaosai, and you’ve also worked with Pigo Lin to produce your collection video. Tell us more about those collabs and who else you’d like to work with in the future.
I am open to any sort of collaborations as long as it’s fun and something meaningful.
What does the future hold for your brand? What are your hopes and dreams once the pandemic subsides?
I would like to hop on a flight and leave for any country and start my adventure for a couple of weeks. I’m positive about the future.
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.
As we cautiously emerge from lockdown and begin to go out out, those of us looking for bold, beautifully crafted pieces that are ethically sourced and environmentally conscious would be well advised to look to Ray Chu for those pieces that will transport us to the post-pandemic roaring twenties and that unapologetic escapism we are all craving.