Han Chong couldn’t stage his usual show at New York Fashion Week this season, nor could he plan one at home in London amid the city’s third lockdown. Instead, he put those resources towards a campaign featuring the first official “face” of Self-Portait: Phoebe Dynevor, she of Bridgerton fame. Ironically, Dynevor is working with the brand as it pivots away from Bridgerton-esque puffed sleeves, delicate lace, and crystal embellishments to a sparer, stripped-back aesthetic. Chong summed it up as “elegant simplicity.”
It isn’t surprising to hear Chong is no longer feeling for ruffles, brights, and pomp after the year we’ve had. Chances are his customer isn’t, either. Who wants to be weighed down by a big sleeve or heavy layers when we’re finally, gleefully re-emerging? Chong’s approach for fall 2021 involved sharper silhouettes with just a touch of the charm the brand is known for. A blazer dress came in semi-sparkly tweed, with a short, boxy fit that read sexy, not fussy; a more casual ruched jersey dress had subtly-padded sleeves and a cascading ruffle down the center, and a few ivory dresses (designed with brides in mind) were cut with sleek, no-frills halter necks and a single row of crystal trim. The flared minidress looked particularly fresh: a lighter, bouncier alternative to the volume and midi lengths of pre-2020 collections.
Chong was especially excited about his sweater developments. It’s a big moment for knitwear, but his ribbed cashmere dresses with crochet trim and crystal buttons will stand out. Cut in narrow, sometimes ultra-short silhouettes, they had that odd balance of sexy, cozy, and a little bit prudish all at once.