Close your eyes and envision the narcissist in your life – we all have one, and if you don’t, spoiler alert: it’s you. Centre your focus on them, as you know they appreciate, and feel that shift within you. Can you feel it? The impending doom? Okay, open up before you get sucked in, this is an expedition into the ego’s bizarre, otherwise known as Kyle Ho’s imaginary. His latest collection, A Dialogue With Myself explores the uncanny beauty of self-obsession and salvaging identity.
We stumbled upon the curator of ego and poise, who kindly invited us into his thoughts during our interview. Read on, as Kyle’s artistry extends way beyond his current exploration of narcissism, with the core of his brand centred on challenging societal norms whilst exaggerating the male physique.
As London Fashion Week commenced, we saw the sartorial spectacle of Kyle’s Autumn/Winter 2024 ego parading through Piccadilly Circus, where the charm is in the self-obsession and the narcissism in every strut. This defiance against the ordinary is captured forever long in his digital presentation in partnership with DiscoverLAB. As a masked enigma dominates the virtual showcase, one can’t help but wonder, is 2024 ushering in the revival of bubonic plague chic? Or does this foretell the don of uncharted self-expression? Kyle Ho’s wonderfully peculiar vision earned him a spot on this year’s Attitude 101’s Trailblazers in the LGBTQ+ community 2024, singling him out as a designer of note!
You’ve just presented A Dialogue With Myself – congratulations! How did you approach the design of this collection, especially given the intricate framework of the theme, where you touch upon the stimulation of psychosocial complexities and egocentricity?
When I first initiated the concept title A Dialogue With Myself, I was thinking of my personal ongoing inner dialogue. I always have a voice inside my head – not in a creepy way! I just tend to space out when I’m talking to people. It’s not because I’m not paying attention to them, it’s more like I have something in the back of my head. When I first started the A/W 2024, I wanted to focus on the social phenomenon of self-obsession because it’s prevalent in today’s society with its growing narcissistic tendencies. And then, from this, I wanted to unpack what it means to be narcissistic. The term narcissist usually is associated with a negative impact and negative connotations. But for this collection, I wanted to focus on the positive, viewing it as potentially positive and in a more neutral context. Does that make sense?
Oh, it makes perfect sense! And I get the voice, I have that same voice, and then my friends say the same thing. In terms of the design aesthetic and overall impression of your A/W 2024, what can we anticipate?
Based on the psychological concept of narcissism, the design aesthetic of this collection can be seen through the manipulations of the textile. That is the key point. Unfortunately I can’t tell you more about what the collection is going to be yet, but this is all I can tell. Usually, I will manipulate the fabric itself, but this season, I have manipulated the textile. That’s the only thing I can sneak in for now which reflects the experimental nature of my brand and hence, the exaggerated male physique.
You’re keeping us on our toes, that’s good! So to date, each of your collections have such a strong concept base, falling under this umbrella of subverting expectations and challenging norms. Regardless of this overarching philosophy, is there a specific influence that consistently finds its way into your work?
So, I don't have a specific influence, but since teaching in this educational setting - I teach at the London College of Fashion - I would say that I’m heavily influenced by the teaching methods used to enhance students work in terms of expanding academic frameworks. I just love reading academic context. So my job is more like translating. When I write academic writing, like an article or something, it’s just the written form. I want to bring that to real life. That’s how I’m usually influenced.
That’s really interesting because I didn’t know that, and I am currently a student at LCF!
Then I will probably see you around, I’m on floor 6, because I’m in fashion, styling and productions. But sometimes, I do MA menswear as well.
Is this a permanent lecturer position or are you an associate lecturer?
Permanent! So for me it’s more like being able to do my own brand, have my own brand, but at the same time, teach! It sounds quite challenging, but it’s fun! I find it very, very good, especially because I get to criticise student’s work and I’m able to push their boundaries. Sometimes I personally learn something from the student because they are so fresh, they haven’t been influenced by the industry. So life, everything just came out, like, literally fresh.
Do you feel as though your perspective has shifted since transitioning from student life to stepping into the industry?
It has, because now it’s getting more real. You know? You have to work hard, keep practicing. As a student, you can still have a little bit of leeway, but when you work in the industry, there’s no leeway. You can have a plan B or other alternative options, but there’s no leeway for you.
In depicting such complex and nuanced concepts that often reflect personal and societal narratives, does it feel as though you need to approach them with a certain responsibility?
Being a gay Asian male in a foreign country, it underscored the importance of establishing a platform to articulate our beliefs, and perspectives. By fostering an open dialogue, we are not only empowering ourselves but also promoting understanding and inclusivity. It fosters a more diverse and accepting community. So, that does feel like a certain responsibility. While I understand why now everyone is promoting LGBTQ+, for me, as a first person perspective, it’s essential. Asian male in a foreign country is not that specific, but gay Asian male in a foreign country, is. I always believe in the need for societal change and improvement from time to time. That’s why we need to speak out in terms of what we believe in. We might only be a few people, but if we keep our voice down, things will never change!
Building on this, your S/S 24 collection Les Amoureux explores a queer, homoerotic love story. How did you integrate this narrative into your garments? Given that the collection involves styling, performance and fashion to tell the story, can you share how these elements complimented each other?
When it comes to a homoerotic love story, it’s more often always involved with emotional and physical touch. As humans, this is just something that we desire. For Les Amoureux, the direction needs an overarching visual narrative. Each of the elements follow the narrative that encapsulates the scene of love, desire and attractiveness to add a sense of coherence and belonging. The movement direction was done in a way which showcased both the garments and the interactions between gay men. I played with submissions and dominance, which are often fetishes within a relationship, to create something poetic through the concept of the collections.
Les Amoureux feels like such a deviation from the traditional menswear we’re so used to seeing, a sort of rejection of the outdated and truly fabricated limitations of the field. In a sense, I feel like you position masculinity as a form of expression rather than a confinement. How do you hope the wearer feels when donning your designs?
Yeah that’s true! The previous collection Les Amoureux was focused on the expressions of masculinity, breaking into aspects that shouldn’t be confined by the conventional perspectives of what masculinity should be. Challenging societal norms has always been at the core of my brand. I still want the wearer to feel masculine when they pick up the pieces and wear them. I want the wearer to feel and see who they truly are, and be able to express themselves rather than wearing something that doesn’t have a meaning to them. The idea behind [it is] the garments are not there to fit the norms or to become a shield that hides you away from the world. Instead, they should become like an extension of yourself, and how you wish to share your identity. Also when we talk about menswear it can sometimes get a little boring. You mention menswear and think traditional, like very outdated, mostly streetwear. So that’s why I want to do it, I really want to push the boundary and help you realise who you truly are. Fashion can [be] a medium, a way to communicate without words, and I find that really really interesting and fascinating, especially with male fashion.
I resonate with everything you mentioned, especially because I grew up in Cyprus, where there’s this very stationary notion associated with male fashion, often limited to suits, athleisure, or generally these very basic styles. Moving to London, especially when attending UAL, I was surrounded by so much creativity and diverse views of what menswear is, they’re relatable and refreshing just like your collection! I’m wondering, when you first founded your label, did you personally experience the sense of confidence and rebelliousness that your garments exude, or was it something you sought to discover through your designs?
When I first launched the brand back in 2020, after completing my MA degree in menswear, my aim was to challenge the restrictive traditions of men’s tailoring, and rebuke these restrictions by creating pieces that exaggerate the proportion of the male physique. [It’s] a bit of a side-track but the concept for my first ever collection in university was titled Reaching the Sky, and it focused on the idea that as kids, we always wanted to grow taller to get closer to the sky. Since then, I have discovered that projecting a sense of self-expression in each collection is more impactful for both the audience and the wearer. But don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not changing the core principle of my brand, which is challenging the norms of male physique proportions. Instead, I want to project something about myself from time to time. But in order to subvert the norms and transmute the ordinary, I believe that I also need to change societal views from time to time.
While your garments display extravagance, both in aesthetic and proportion, there seems to be a meticulous attention to precision when looking at the finer details. How do you strike this balance between avant-garde silhouettes and the intricate craftsmanship of each piece?
Studying menswear and then through training, I am well aware of the construction involved in making tailored pieces. Creating tailored pieces is something I still need to keep practicing as each silhouette and design comes from practise. Sometimes we won’t know how to construct a garment without practising. If you don’t practise you will never get to know how it turns out in real life. If the first sample doesn’t work out, then I will completely destroy it and deconstruct it, change it and then expand it to create something new. While I have the knowledge of tailoring in terms of functionality, I also need to explore the silhouette and be willing to deconstruct it entirely and just start from the beginning. That’s how I can kind of balance out the Avant Garde silhouette and the craftsmanship.
This was a very LCF tutor response when things don’t pan out the way you expected. You get immediately disappointed because it took so much time, but then your tutors remind you of the need to persist, even if it means taking it upon themselves to like, ruin it for you.
(Laughs) yeah there’s been times where I [have] kind of torn the sketches apart and then regenerated them. Sometimes, if you don't, let's say, destroy and deconstruct, you will always be in a comfort zone. You can’t generate something new while you’re in the past zone.
I think it’s also a matter of understanding that obviously this works for students. But even when we grow older and you gain more experience, we find ourselves repeating the same trial-and-error process we did when we were 20 as it’s still the most effective approach.
And that’s what I always keep telling my students, there’s no right answer, it’s more about the fact that the final product, what does it tell your audience? Does it tell your narrative to the audience? That's the most important bit. I’ll never say, “oh you did it right” or “you did it wrong”, there’s no right or wrong. As designers, we shouldn’t be confined by the standard answer, yes or no. Say I’m your tutor and you explain your design to me, and I think it’s not right. If you then explain to me what this means to you, what made this happen, then you are right and I’m wrong.
In the studio I can see conflicts begin between student and tutor when there’s this barrier when articulating the project. When the student is able to fully explain their concept and what it means for them, then they’ll almost always find their common ground. So back to your menswear tailoring, when distorting and enhancing the male physique, what considerations guide your exploration? For instance, how do you ensure that your garments are both eccentric and unusual, while ensuring they are comfortable and practical?
As a designer and tailor, I’m fully aware of the golden ratio of the Vitruvian man. The reason why I created my brand is because I saw the images of the Vitruvian man, and found them very, very fascinating, as they provide guidance on the proportion of each part of the male body. from this I challenged myself to create like an optical illusion that will enhance the focal point of the garment, so making the body seem more exaggerated and distorted, creating a new perspective of what is deemed to be the perfect male body.
Your designs are described as “fragments of revolution”, can you share a bit more about what that means to you?
Of course! So we live in a modern society, and what I believe is extremely crucial is that we speak out to make a change, so we can move forward to make a better society. That’s why I would say that, from a design perspective, an academia perspective and even a creative direction perspective, every single bit needs to change over time because we can’t stay the same. Even for myself, compared to four years ago, it’s different! We are looking to be in a better place but if we don’t put our voice out, how could we ever be?
So you grew up in Hong Kong and then moved to London to pursue your studies- If I recall that was back in 2014. Do you find that these experiences have shaped your design perspective? Are there specific cultural elements, whether from Cantonese or London culture, that you see find their way into your designs?
Yeah I moved here around 2014. Growing up in Hong Kong, which was once a British colony, it exposed me to a blend of both Eastern and Western influences. While this didn’t impact me technically, it did influence my cultural perspective. To answer the question, I would say I lean towards London culture, especially since I trained here. So my collection reflects all the cultural perspectives, with Cantonese representing my heritage and London being the influence. When it comes to my designs, London culture stands out as the main influence. Cantonese is great, it’s where I was born, but it sometimes can be a little mixed. While I’m in London, I’m fully aware of the British perspective on menswear tailoring, emphasising structured lines, sharp shoulders, and clean finishes. The traditions and techniques I learned during my apprenticeship in London are deeply embedded in my designs. London is more like a stage. A stage for you to pursue your dream. That’s the reason why I moved here. I got into Parsons in New York, but the history is not as rich as in Britain. This is why I love living in London.
I see, and the Parsons bit ties perfectly with my next question, that reflects on your education at the University of the Arts London, where you studied both your Bachelors and Masters, and we know also learned that you’re a new educator there! Do you believe your experiences in university adequately prepared you for the multifaceted challenges of the fashion industry?
Yes, I believe that both my Bachelor and Masters degrees have had a huge impact on my development as a designer. Fashion styling is more like a post-production stage, and then fashion design is more like a pre-production stage. This is where I have picked up the skillset to be able to produce and design the collection that you see today. Studying hasn’t only helped me as a designer, but it has provided me with the necessary tools to be able to establish and run my brand. Right now I’m applying for a PhD, which you might find a bit weird. Obviously as a designer, I really don’t need a PhD, but the thing is, I want to develop my academic studies. Again, you might find this a bit weird but a lot of people, they will get inspired from images or what they see, but I will get inspired by the text, the annotations.
Looking forward, are there specific themes or concepts you are eager to explore in your upcoming collections?
I will always keep challenging what is happening in today’s society while also pushing the focus through the male form and experimenting with ways to further exaggerate and distort the male body. That’s what I can say. I don’t want to give any sort of promise, or anything, because in terms of my aesthetic and direction, that might change.
Okay I see what you’re saying, you’ll continue to challenge common conventions and experiment with the male form, yet the uniqueness each time lies in the distinctiveness of each concept and how you’ll approach the tailoring and design.
Exactly! And that's how I want to be. Also because I’m from Hong Kong, I want to be the person to challenge things. We’re fighters. So for the young designers that might be reading this, you have to keep practicing. No matter how good you are, practising can help you move forward to the next chapter. That’s what I keep telling myself. I know it’s hard, I know I really want to give up sometimes, but I just need to keep practising. You’ll then find yourself in a better place!