“In an iron tin box, a pupa wriggles restlessly, sensing every inch of its body undergoing intense changes. Its cells screams while its shell contracts. Each breath of the moth feels like a blunt knife, stabbing into its chest. It gradually realizes that the only way out is to break free from this confinement, exit the shadow, and enter the light,” designer Louis Shengtao Chen wrote on the press notes for his Spring/Summer 2024 collection.

Photos by Edison Allen, David Lee, courtesy of Louis Shengtao Chen
Photos by Edison Allen, David Lee, courtesy of Louis Shengtao Chen

Unveiled at Shanghai Fashion Week, in a brightly lit room where not even a shadow can be hidden, the collection explores an emotive process of creation. In a hush and holding of a breath with a single murmur that can be heard so clearly across, the show commences in a total moment of sanity.

Inspired by the moth’s pupa, the collection opens with a tremble of excitement when beauty is uncovered, a metaphor to a pupa emerging from its cocoon. A subtle rush of electricity is felt, the body tickles and the fingers crunch. Louis plays with the intricate inner feelings momentary of fragility and a yearning for the unknown.
“Look at this pupa, it’s shaking. It’s about to transform into another form, in absolute silence to our ears. I am not even sure if the moth can really emerge from it. But in this moment, do you feel all the life that’s happening from within?” said Louis Shengtao Chen in the press notes.
Explaining that “the climax of [the transformation] is not in the pupa transforming into a moth, but in the process itself. Unraveling the cocoon, in the moments of longing, struggling, enjoying, and emerging, that unknown, heart-wrenching, splendid and fulfilling moment. I often feel that the result is not the most beautiful part of the story. Beauty exists in every little moment of discovering beauty, an ecstatic sensation that resonates from the core to the brain. This sometimes painful process, so exquisite, addictive. . . it stirs me, attracts me.”
“Orgasmic!” that’s how Louis describes it.
Orgasmic. A feeling all so familiar to most, yet so few are willing to reveal. In his journey of evolution, Louis Shengtao Chen has always dived himself into a black hole of romance. The romance is now bloating out to the water’s surface. Is that a subtle humming we hear? “The End of the World?” Maybe that’s it. A quiet mumble, full of depth and sorrows, scared to be sung out loud, fearful of vulnerability.

Like a moth, breaking out from its cocoon. Louis Shengtao Chen follows the main thread of the collection and cuts away the complexity in his first attempt. He turns cloth into layers of skin, peeling, peeling, until all the raw form and edges are shown in bare skin. Red sequin and lace covered eyes; oversized peacoats tightly hovering over pearl embroidered mesh dresses; exaggerated fabric trimmed headscarves disguising the wearer’s identity in a form of snake; it’s glamour in anonymity, a hide-and-seek of desire, a peekaboo of insecurity.

Girls walk down the runway with a subtle sense of unease. Head crowned, floral pinned, colors bright and shining, yet arms crossed to blatantly cover their inner unsettling emotions. Blood velvety red linings underneath a traditional English checkered overcoat over burgundy stockings. Spikes and cone-shaped 3D shoulders protect the torn-up floral cut-out evening dress, as if no one can, or should, get anywhere nearer. An AI created doll face printed on a puffed skirt, weaving alongside lines of sophistication, in a joking manner that mocks its own presence.

Security, insecurity, protection, imperfection, when all is honestly presented in front of truth, should one judge, or should one admire?

Photos by Edison, Allen, David Lee, courtesy of Louis Shengtao Chen