Han Chong’s new label strikes just the right fall note between beauty and structural complexity
by tiffany press
Han Chong started his brand Self Portrait with the thinly-veiled objective of proving that design, not celeb-endorsed PR, is the essential element of success. His commitment to creating affordable work in what he terms the “high-bridge” category has earned him a special place on the current style landscape. Without an orchestrated objective of appearing on a particular blog or under the wing of a specific social media star, the label has, instead, gradually and gently found its way into conversations and closets.
With his unabashedly feminine pieces standing side by side at events with Valentino and Marchesa, Self Portrait seems every bit as intricately crafted as its neighbors. Perhaps the greatest point of departure is that a Han dress will most likely ring in at a quarter of the price of its counterparts, despite its blaze of structural complexity.
There are a number of principles at play leading to this high-quality, low-cost sensibility. For starters, Han believes in not only being creative as a designer but also as a manufacturer—and stays innovative in how materials are sourced and how his production calendar is built to maximize efficiency.
A native of Malaysia, he made the move to London almost ten years ago, where he graduated from the presti-
Han’s attention to detail and understanding of visual passion points (color theory and multiple uses of texture, among other principles) are what make Self Portrait remarkable.
gious Central Saint Martins, with a BA in Womenswear. Upon graduation, he worked with an array of fashion designers, but it’s his art background that may have had the biggest influence on current work. (Before fashion became the focus, Han was a featured artist at the 2011 Venice Biennial.)
The designer’s attention to detail and understanding of visual passion points (color theory and multiple uses of texture, among other principles) are also what make Self Portrait remarkable—for example the incorporation of laser-sharp intricacies and couture-level attention to the treatment of fabric. Han has said that when he sources material (from all corners of Asia, including Korea and Shanghai), he is not only shopping for beauty but for a utilitarian component; there is a great deal of consideration into how women will wear his designs…a concept lost in much of formal eveningwear, in which ease of application is an afterthought, if it’s incorporated at all.
Han’s label also doesn’t pigeonhole. While so many designers continuously make an effort to diversify casual clothes, he trail blazes in what he terms “flexibility in formal” space. With his appliqué shift dresses and structured cocktail pieces—bold and subtle at once—his fans can maximize the style quotient.
Still in its early stages, Self Portrait is already solidifying a reputation for having a savvy eye on what women need, and gradually, fashion and celebrity media outlets began featuring Han’s pieces on Kendall Jenner, Leandra Medine, Kerry Washington, and Jennifer Lopez.
With his most recent collection, Han has made it clear, among other things, that there is vibrant life beyond the black tie dress, not least by throwing in some racy lace and leather. Fall also brought jumpsuits and wearable separates (such as croc-embossed trousers and military inspired khaki skirts), plus wedding-ready stunners like his Eva backless lace and crepe de Chine gown with delicate floral-lace panels.