Maisie Wiliams (Arya Stark on Game of Thrones) was the first to wear Self-Portrait on a major red carpet. I noticed because she looked fresh, I’d never seen the dress before, and it took me longer than usual to track down the designer. That was in January, at the SAG Awards. Since then, Reese Witherspoon and Lucy Hale have worn the lacy looks. Kerry Washington and Kristen Stewart, two women who mark opposite ends of the sartorial spectrum, both wore the brand. And most recently, on Thursday night, Jessica Biel wo re a sheer scalloped top from the collection with culottes. It’s a brand, by the way, that tops out around $600. So what’s the story?
“I didn’t set out to purposely fill a void in the market place,” Han Chong, the creative director, tells Yahoo Style. “I started Self-Portrait to create something special for women that was still affordable.” And the clothes are special—lacy, but not at all girly—the dresses flatter all shapes and sizes, and they look surprisingly appropriate on the red carpet given their starting price of $300. “We’ll continue to push the boundaries of what people traditionally expect from lace,” Chong says. Look for sporty elements and what he calls “more provocative” silhouettes next season.
The Central St. Martin’s graduate was an artist before he turned to fashion. Chong’s work was on display at the 2011 Venice Biennial, before he co-founded a line called Three Floor, and finally launched Self-Portrait in 2013. “Inspiration for me comes from many sources, but mostly I mostly get inspired by films, art, what I see on the street or things I read,” he says. “All these little impressions form into your visual memory and then suddenly new patterns and ideas start to form.” He’s traded in his art world influence for Hollywood, where he’s found a surprisingly diverse fan base—including Lady Gaga, whom he was surprised to see wear his clothes. “But she always seems to surprise, doesn’t she?!”
From ASOS to Net-a-porter, it doesn’t look like anyone can keep Self-Portrait in stock—and that’s just the way Chong wants it: “Beauty shouldn’t be just for the privileged few.”