Has it really been a decade already? “It’s a funny thing, 10 years,” mused Richard Chai before the presentation to mark his label’s milestone anniversary. Back then, he was stepping out on his own after working with Marc Jacobs, sending a frisson of excitement through young editors eager for fresh talent. Now, he’s an established New Yorker who has carved out a niche in the easy, layered, street-meets-polished camp.
It’s this last proposition that has most often played out on Chai’s runway. He loves a tailored line, especially when it’s pushed up against the not so proper and rigid. For Spring, nearly every look illustrated the point, from his first, a bright yellow coat and a scribble-printed dress with an asymmetric hanky hem, to his last few, which worked sequins in with men’s pinstripes. Tons of layering helped the motif along, too, for both boys and girls. Shiny tank tops were worn with everything from slinky dresses with waves of loose ruffles to nicely cut short suits. While some of it may have looked a little too unkempt at times, there were moments when things clicked exactly how Chai had intended. Like the navy Chesterfield worn over a fluid tank and pants in a lavender and burgundy geometric print, seen again later but with a tan sleeveless coat.
There was a youthful (and obviously purposeful) carelessness to the show. Hair and makeup wasn’t uniform because everyone was a different character, silk shirts were tied around waists, and straps slipped off shoulders. Chai himself was as enthusiastic and grateful as a rookie. “I’m fortunate to do what I love. As tough as this industry can be, there are so many moments of beauty and joy,” he said. Perhaps it’s that attitude that helped him get to the 10-year mark.