At Self-Portrait, Han Chong has cultivated a devoted following for his modern take on special-occasion dresses. But for pre-fall, the designer was looking to pare things back and focus on a more effortless spirit. This of course applied to his signature evening frocks, but he also ramped up his offering of casual knitwear and everyday separates for daytime. “The silhouettes are cleaner and not so complicated—they have a lot of ease to them,” he said.
Chong’s knitwear assortment, which he launched this past spring, now makes up 35% of his collection. After going direct-to-consumer, he said he’s noticed success with designing pieces in slinkier knits. He wanted to expand on that offering here. “It’s comfy—people are now looking for much more forgiving pieces that have stretch,” he said. The new dresses are long-sleeved and collared in sky blue (for the office), or strapless in a bright lime green (for the club). There are also discreet two-piece knit sets, like a black strapless top with chunky gold buttons, and a matching maxi skirt. “It’s a very ’90s kind of vibe,” Chong said.
For his more casual separates, Chong experimented with new ideas. He did denim this season, including as mini skirts or corset-like tops, which speak to his Gen-Z customers. “The Self-Portrait denim is sexy,” he said. “There’s so many people doing jeans or denim jackets, so you have to find your place in the market.” He also made polished tweed jackets—which at times read a bit too Chanel—for would-be ladies-who-lunch. “Our customer can be from 20 to 50, so we wanted to be very inclusive in terms of what we offered her,” he added.
As for Self-Portrait’s bread-and-butter—the dresses—Chong was thinking of the many weddings and other special events that people shop for around the pre-fall season. His intention was to modernize classic silhouettes. A white cotton dress with side cutouts had subtle appliqué work at the neckline. A lavender mini dress had ruching at the bust, dramatic ruffles at the hips, and crystal trim, too. Chong envisioned these dresses being something you can easily slip on and go. “You have to be able to have fun in the pieces, but also feel like you can move and dance in them,” he said. “You don’t want to be precious about what you’re wearing.”