“CUTENESS FOR EVERYONE”, that’s how designers Elly Cheng and Rex Lo describe their Hong Kong-based label Somewhere Nowhere to me in three words. It’s the perfect description for the pastel-coloured world that the London College of Fashion-graduate design duo have created. Having had their collections stocked on cult online shop Dolls Kill, and on the forever-fun Lazy Oaf, the brand has cultivated a loyal following of over 87k pink mesh lovers and they show no sign of stopping.
Former housemates Cheng and Lo decided to start Somewhere Nowhere a year after they graduated in Womenswear Design, initially with the intention of making some pocket money on Etsy. Their first pieces were a range of fluffy teddy bear two-pieces, which they admit to putting their “best efforts” into. “When we first started, everything was made to order in house. Our budget was tight and we wanted to make things affordable for everyone”, they tell me. “All we could do is make everything ourselves. And we think this could encourage more people like us. All you need is love and sweat, not resources.”
With their immense popularity now, you would expect that they would have had moved on from this time consuming process. But the beautiful reality is that all the items are still handmade to order by the designers. This is certainly surprising considering that, by their own admission, the fashion scene in Hong Kong and China is largely focused on manufacturing clothing quickly and cheaply.
What’s even more shocking is the price at which they sell their hand-made-to-order designer clothing rivals that of the high street. “Everyone is telling us we’re selling too cheap”, they remark, “but seriously, isn’t it great that you are able to afford great designs?” It really is cuteness for everyone.
Yet another surprising fact is that the duo are completely based in Hong Kong now; not many designers chose to move away from London after studying there. I asked the duo about their experience growing up in Hong Kong and why they chose to go back. “We were born in Canada, raised in Hong Kong, studied in London and moved back to Hong Kong last year. It just feels great to be home and seeing friends and family.”
Perhaps the city is a better choice for the designers’ creative home, reflecting the strong Asian influence on their aesthetic. Their studio is located in Aberdeen on Hong Kong Island and “still has a strong early 90s Chinese interior. Everyone asked us if we live there, but actually we don’t.”
The influence of their modern Asian heritage on their work is particularly distinctive in their SS16 collection entitled “A-Girl” where tops and skirts are embroidered with the Chinese symbols for “young girl” (少女). What was on their mood board when they designed it? 1980s Japanese Popstar Akina Nakamori, teenagers, Tokyo, and Japanese youth motorcycle subculture Bōsōzoku – obviously.
On disagreements during their creative process together, Cheng and Lo’s advice is to “always make more and more choices and choose the one which is the best for the occasion. When you combine two totally different ideas together, it will always result in something quite funny to work with.” Their results are always something different, with their recent AW16 showing their signature style, but in a more minimalist paired-back form.So what can we expect next from the brand? “[We’ve expanded] our stockists this summer and you should be seeing us more and more in Japan and Taiwan.” We can’t wait!
Check out the Somewhere Nowhere shop here.