Richard Chai plans to finally get some vacation time after he presents his collection. Where’s he going? “Maybe somewhere I can actually look like someone in my show,” he says laughing. He’s been unable to make it the beach all summer. Chai will present both his men’s and women’s spring/ summer collections together today for the first time. “Tons of color, kind of an eye explosion” is how he describes the clothes, a break from last year’s more sombre palette. Chai’s been loving Korean pop, like the girl band 2NE1(look them up!) and he’s also more confident than ever before. We find him amid castings, taking a break on the fire escape.
This go around, he’s excited to look for some new faces. “It used to be about major girls to give your show credibility. Now, it can be about the message, about the point of view being right.” This means championing thoughtful beauties with substance. Chai cites his friend Pace Gallery’s Nicola Vassell as example. There’s one more thing he wants to champion and that’s the diversity among New York’s fashion talent. Sometimes, everyone’s quick to try and categorize a moment with a generalized heading like, say, Asian designers. Chai says we can lump together the Antwerp Six, as they all came from the one school, and the same may be said of the Junya-Comme clan, but this group isn’t a similar “collective.” Chai points out even the subtle difference in that Phillip Lim and Alexander Wang are from the West Coast while he grew up on the East Coast. “It’s great to be recognized,” he says, “but not as a movement. We’re all so individual with different backgrounds.”