I’m only wearing spiky shoes and bags from now on, thanks to Chet Lo’s collab with Charles & Keith

Read my interview with the London-based designer

Charles & Keith x Chet Lo
(Image credit: Charles & Keith x Chet Lo)

It’s Chet Lo’s world, we’re just living in it. In just four years, the London-based, Asian-American designer has built a brand that’s instantly recognisable – not via branding or logos, but rather by the sculptural, durian fruit-inspired spikes that adorn each design – and a faithful following that includes Kylie Jenner, Zendaya and Dua Lipa.

If, like me, you’re a little (read: extremely) obsessed with Chet Lo’s prickly-looking ready-to-wear, you’re going to love the designer’s latest launch – a capsule collection of shoes and bags in collaboration with cult Singaporean accessory brand, Charles & Keith.

Charles & Keith x Chet Lo

(Image credit: Charles & Keith x Chet Lo)

Six of Charles & Keith’s most loved designs have been wrapped in Chet Lo’s signature spikes, in both knitted and rubberised form. There are sleek, pointed wedges with statement heels – the red version sold out instantly – and a ‘90s-inspired shoulder bag, embellished with a spiky, high-shine charm. Traditionally demure pieces, such as the ballet flat and headband, are given the Chet Lo treatment, in dramatically textured flyback knit.

I caught up with Chet Lo to chat about the collab, his starry ascent and his favourite Real Housewife of Beverly Hills.

How did the collaboration with Charles & Keith come about?

Charles & Keith have been so supportive of me ever since I really started having my own shows. Basically, my team and I were like, “We don't have any shoes. We need somebody's shoes!” Our PR looped us together, and for my Spring/Summer ‘23, Autumn/Winter ‘23 and Spring/Summer ‘24 shows, they provided shoes and accessories. I was so happy, because they're a Singaporean brand, and I feel like it is a perfect meld of East and West ideas that I always try to represent in my collections.

Charles & Keith x Chet Lo

Designer Chet Lo with one of the bags from his capsule collection with Charles & Keith

(Image credit: Charles & Keith x Chet Lo)

Could you share your inspirations for this capsule collection?

It was very much inspired by our signature spikes, which came about from the durian fruit, which is so quintessentially Southeast Asian because the durian fruit is so popular there. I also just really wanted to think about the actual demographic of women that we're dressing for this collaboration, so we have different kinds of silhouettes.

For the feminine girl, there are the ballet flats. Then you've got the evening wear, the high heels that are really sexy and quite sultry. For the Y2K fun girl, there are the clog mules that can be worn with an oversized T-shirt, just really casual. There is a cute headband, and then also two bags – one's more for evening, and one's more for daytime. I was just trying to infiltrate as many different wardrobes as possible.

We've been broadening this spiky, Chet Lo world, and I'm just so proud of the work that we've done.

Tell me about the Chet Lo woman.

When we first started out, it was a young, fun, kooky girl, and now as we've been maturing, we're trying to elevate our look, and try to be able to create looks that are for an older women, but also still catering to the younger girl, and also boys. I think clothes should be for everybody. So that's really what this collection was about. I feel like we've been broadening this spiky, Chet Lo world, and I'm just so proud of the work that we've done.

So many high-profile people have worn your designs. Do you have a particular muse in mind?

There are so many different people that I'm inspired by. Being able to work with Lisa Rinna at the British Fashion Awards was amazing, and Leigh-Anne [Pinnock] as well. 'm very blessed to be able to work with the people I have. For the future, I'm obsessed with Michelle Yeoh. She is literally an icon to me, and I think I'll die if I ever meet her. That's the dream.

Materiality is all-important to your design aesthetic – tell me about the materials you used in this capsule.

So we have a beautiful plexiglass, 3D-printed shoe, which I'm obsessed with because it [embodies] that perfect futuristic look that we're trying to go for. For the accessories, we used an embossed fabric that is a bit more durable than our normal knitted pieces;  we really considered the practical uses of the pieces, on a garment it's fine to have something that's knitted and a bit more fragile, but if this was on a shoe and it pulled on stuff, it would be a mess!

It’s difficult to tell what the spikes are made from until you touch the actual pieces.

That's the concept. For me, everyone is always really confused, which I love, because when you buy it online, everyone's like, "Oh, my God, I thought it was way harder, but it's so soft," and that's the concept really, that it looks kind of intangible, that you would never know what it feels like until you have it. That’s why it's always been so interesting to sell in person, to be able to have it in a store, because then people actually feel it and they're like, "Whoa, this is really different to what I expected." There’s that fun tactility to the pieces.

You’ve achieved so much in just a few years – what are the highlights so far?

For me, the highlights were being able to show with Fashion East and then being able to show in our standalone with Newgen, and then definitely this.

This collaboration for me was such a proud moment. The fact that Charles & Keith is a Singaporean brand, and the fact that the price point isn't remarkably high, because they’re able to work on their price points. I’m happy to be able to create pieces that everyone can buy into.

Charles & Keith x Chet Lo

(Image credit: Charles & Keith x Chet Lo)

You’ve said that your signature spikes are inspired by the durian fruit, as a nod to your Asian heritage. How else has Asian culture inspired your work?

For example, last season’s collection was inspired by shunga [Japanese erotic art]. We incorporated Chinese knots and the idea of tying, inspired by shibari [Japanese rope bondage], so there was this idea of sensuality. It stemmed from the idea that you don't have a lot of Asian representation in porn, which really changes your ideas and notions of beauty and sensuality. So I really wanted to touch on that.

With every collection there's a different kind of message, but there's always this integral thread of mixing different Eastern influences with Western silhouettes.

You came to London to study at Central Saint Martins. Has your time in the city influenced your designs?

Oh my God, yeah. I think ever since the '80s, there's been this idea of this punk renaissance, and that energy has never left, and so you still see it in the youth culture today. When I was in university, we were all dressed up as aristocrats from the Victorian ages, with white painted faces and crazy makeup, and I used POSCA pen and drew on my face all the time. That sense of punk and expression and freedom, you can't really find anywhere else.

For me, I just feel the safest here and the most welcomed, and I was able to find my family here. I’m constantly inspired by the friend groups that I have here, and the friendships that I've made, and the confidence and the bravery that the queer community have here.

Can you share anything about your upcoming Autumn/Winter ‘24 collection?

Autumn/Winter '24 is going to be very armour-inspired, but that's all you'll get from me. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Shop the Chet Lo x Charles & Keith capsule collection in-store and at charleskeith.com and chetlo.com now

Natalie Hughes
Fashion Editor

Natalie Hughes is Fashion Editor at Marie Claire UK. She has worked as a fashion journalist and content consultant for 15 years, crafting copy and content for magazines and brands including Harper's Bazaar, Elle, Net-a-Porter, Who What Wear, Matches, Glamour, and more.