The front row at Self-Portrait’s Fall 2018 show in February was packed with “superinfluencers” like Aimee Song, Camila Coelho, Chriselle Lim, and Jamie Chung. They’re among dozens of women who are often paid by brands to attend fashion shows and share the experience with their millions of Instagram followers (all while dressed in looks by the designer, of course). You might start to wonder if they actually like the clothes or if they’re just being commissioned to drive traffic, but at Self-Portrait, the affection is genuine. For starters, many of these girls are real-life friends with designer Han Chong, and his clothes are a perfect storm of Instagram-friendliness: They’re pretty and feminine, but structured, so they add angles to a photo, and they aren’t so over the top that they don’t look good IRL, too.
It’s a tricky balance; plenty of Self-Portrait’s imitators make tops and dresses that look out of place beyond an iPhone screen, because they’re too bright, too trendy, and have a single-use purpose; wear it again, and everyone will remember. Those copies stand to cheapen Self-Portrait’s signatures, which is one reason Chong adopted the pre-collection model of The Row, Céline, and a handful other luxury brands: He hosts Resort and Pre-Fall appointments “in season”—for this collection, it was in January—but holds the images until the clothes arrive in stores. It reduces the potential for copycats and excites the Self-Portrait customer, and it appears to be a win-win.
As spring finally heats up in the U.S. (and London, where Chong is based), that customer will be particularly excited to buy a new dress to wear to weddings. The dresses in Chong’s signature guipure lace—including a pleated orchid A-line, a blush maxi dress, and a black long-sleeved mini—will look familiar to her, but he also introduced a few softer, vaguely retro frocks. The red and black polka-dot numbers were a surprise, and may have stemmed from the vintage obsession happening on Instagram; every day is #ThrowbackThursday now, with designers and influencers alike posting mood images of Jane Birkin, Romy Schneider, or Brigitte Bardot. (Some brands even make clothes in those women’s images, like Rouje and Réalisation Par.)
A cherry red dress with a keyhole neckline looked plucked from the ’60s, but a micro-mini with puffed sleeves and an asymmetrical neckline had more of an ’80s slant. Chong must have had an inkling the decade would be huge for Fall ’18; while those collections won’t hit stores until August, his polka-dot dress is available now—and will likely go fast. For the Self-Portrait girl more interested in daywear, there were eyelet tops in a similar puffed-up silhouette and a few pieces in glen plaid, like a ruffled miniskirt and cropped trousers. Maybe it’s the endless winter we just experienced, but most women are ready to say goodbye to plaid for a while, and will bypass those items for Chong’s lighter, breezier pieces.