LÚCHEN Invites Us to Dream at NYFW

Playful surrealism meets a digital future.

Lu Chen’s eponymous label implores us to ask questions. And it answers those questions by continuing to ask.

The young designer’s Spring/Summer 2023 collection takes a look at our digital future and the role of reality in an increasingly virtual world. Where are we going? Why are we here? And most importantly, what is real?

Chen’s newest work is mired in “what-ifs,” and it basks in the beauty of contradiction. The show opens with ruffled pieces that blur the line between two-dimensionality and luxurious curvature. Floor-length gowns float effortlessly across the pavement of Washington Square Park, as if a savvy engineer programmed each subtle movement.

The show proceeds with allusions to the digital realm; four-by-five rectangles intend to reference smartphones and juxtapose with a floral motif. These garments are stark and contemporary yet romantic and illusory; they pull us into the tension between Mother Nature and the computers at our fingertips. In one look, a singular rose slashes across a box-framed one-piece, forming a rich palette of carmine, eggshell, and charcoal tones. Are these elements at odds? Or do they coexist in precarious harmony? Chen poses these issues and tactfully evades simple solutions.

The collection gains momentum in the space between the environmental and the electronic, pinpointing the human form as a key player. Wave-like beading and sinuous bone-work contour the models’ torsos in a nod to three-dimensional modeling of the body. Chen employs classic oppositions in these pieces, popping white highlights against black fabrics. These choices feel natural and cohesive, encouraging us to lean into their beauty instead of rationalizing their unknowns.

With a consistent mastery of high-contrast relationships and anatomical imagery, Chen toys with the idea of flight as an expression of mystery. On a translucent, girdered dress, the shoulders extend outward like a pair of wings, bouncing playfully at the model’s shins. The garment is airy and ethereal, even as its silhouette evokes the rounded bars of a birdcage. In Chen’s take on the future, entrapment and freedom are two sides of the same coin. One cannot exist without the other, and both cannot be true. At the crux of that impossibility lies LÚCHEN’s greatest feat.

Chen heightens her enticing contradictions in the show’s final look: a blush-toned layering of gown and cloak that feels equally mournful and celebratory. The plush texture of the outfit appears thick but light, and it matches a bouquet of cloth roses resting in the model’s hand. These garments carry a solemn tone, though their uniform color is a cheerful pastel. This look ushers in an uncertain future and bids farewell to the past. Natural and synthetic qualities collaborate here in a stunning display of artistry and craftsmanship.

The LÚCHEN Spring/Summer 2023 collection meditates on cyberspace against the backdrop of public space, all through a lens that feels appropriately tongue-in-cheek. This line is contemporary and heartfelt, and it empowers its audience to ask away.

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