Films and fashion are a definitive creative pairing that, when used together, express the powerful language of visual narration. This is what emerging fashion designer Cho Cho Cheng hoped to show his audience with his Chocheng Autumn/Winter 2017 collection at New York Fashion Week, which pays tribute to a 1946 film noir “The Big Sleep,” starring Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart.
Cho, who first opened his Madison Avenue shop in New York City in 2009, makes his bespoke and ready-to-wear garments in London with natural materials following Savile Row tailoring techniques. The Hong Kong-born designer has already dressed an array of celebrities, ranging from Hollywood actress Nicole Kidman and singer Janet Jackson, to former first lady Nancy Reagan.
Prior to his presentation, Jing Daily spoke with Cho about his affinity for cinema and vintage style, as well as his plans for expansion in the China market.
How did “The Big Sleep” inspire your designs?
Lauren Bacall wore a houndstooth suit in the film, and that is the where I got the inspiration for this collection. I love the glamour and suspense of it all. I am passionate about tailoring, and the 1940’s is one of the best-tailored periods. I like the strong shoulders, the slim waist and sleeved dresses of that era, which speaks to my own aesthetic of meticulous tailoring
What message do you hope to send your fans with your film noir-inspired designs?
Film noir originated in the 1940’s and has never gone out of style. There are movies, books, and fashion collections in the style of film noir every year. The message I am trying to send out is that I am passionate about films and costume design. I would love to design costumes for films and theaters, and I am hoping producers will get the message and discover me.
What is your production process? Where and how do you select fabrics?
All garments are handcrafted in my London atelier and are made from 100 percent natural materials. Harris tweed from Scotland and Donegal tweed from Ireland are two of my favorite materials, and cotton velvet is perfect for evening wear. I check the fabrics myself to make sure they are 100 percent natural. Choices are limited as natural material is expensive and not that many manufacturers make it. I usually focus on old heritage mills, and I always choose fabrics with red undertones because it is the most flattering for the skin. I only use fabric in Europe to minimize my carbon footprint.
I manage my own atelier to produce my woven garments, while I work with manufacturers in Britain and Italy to produce my knitwear collection.
How do you achieve a balance between exclusivity, which is significant for luxury brands, and the popularity that is more profitable?
I am one of the only few, if not the only, brand who can make 100 percent natural garments. Everything is natural, from the fabric, threads, buttons, and shoulder pads to the metal zippers. Production cost is high, while volume is low. In order to maintain a reasonable price point, I retail my products myself at my own stores to avoid all the mark ups incurred through the wholesale process. I am also working on e-commerce as well.
How big is your Chinese market? Do you have any plans for expansion?
I opened a store in Beijing in 2015, which is doing very well and will gradually branch out into more stores. I’ll be launching a store in Shenzhen soon.
Who is one style icon today who best represents the essence of your design?
All of my customers are my style icons. I started my shop at the ground floor of my townhouse. I was not doing any shows or marketing at the time. My customers truly love my designs and they truly appreciate my craftsmanship and quality. I am devoted to my customers because they are good people with perfect taste.