“Don’t ignore the mundane.”
When designer Suk Chai typed that caption under a black and white picture of grid-like shadows on a Garment District wall, it might have seemed like outward advice, but it was the beginning of an internal dialog. A note she wrote to herself about the texture of everyday life and the transcendent power of thoughtful decisions.
The shadows, along with similar images of found patterns and worn factory floors, put Chai in the realm of menswear: Hard lines, chalk-stripe flannel, and bankers in suits cut lean and long in silhouettes of the ‘70s.
This season—a time of wool and structure—was on her mind, and these impressions felt fitting. But then again not. The ‘70s had never been a favorite era … until it dawned on her that the decade had significance beyond the usual clichéd caricatures and motifs.
The ‘70s were, in fact, when she was born, and were therefore an important connection to her mother.
From this circuitous yet grounded path, the Awakening emerged. Throughout the creative process—from drawing and draping to long conversations with her fit model—Chai reflected on maternal loyalty, and the strength that day-to-day family life requires. She reflected on her history.
She sought out the architecture of 1972, and found the World Trade Towers.
She went looking for exaggerated textiles and found elegant Suri alpaca and Tuscano wool. She researched and revised ideas about color; where 40 years ago, a certain crude orange proliferated, this autumn will be colored with well-aged bourbon, mauve-toned camel, and rich, rustic blues.
Chai went looking for a way to make good on her first two seasons of growth, and she found reinterpretations of her most popular pieces—wide cropped trousers, linear coats, origami capes, and boxy, effortless tops in luxurious materials.
Chai went looking for a way to make good on her own growth, and she found her mother. In finding her mother, she found herself. A rebirth. An awakening. As a product of this rebirth, S C H A I unfolds with a new season of nuanced narratives that work diligently in every day wardrobes. Commonplace is commonplace nevermore.