Born in Hong Kong, Ryan Lo spent a significant part of his formative years in London, where he studied BA (Hons) Fashion Design and Technology: Womenswear at LCF and graduated in 2011.
Just a year after graduation, Ryan was selected as one of Lulu Kennedy’s Fashion East designers, and following this was awarded NEWGEN sponsorship in 2014 and 2015. In 2015, Ryan was shortlisted for the prestigious €300,000 LVMH prize. He was part of UAL’s Centre for Fashion Enterprise’s New Fashion Pioneer programme, which supports London-based emerging designer labels with business advice and mentoring.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run your business? Who helped?
London is great because there are lots of amazing colleges and organisations willing to help out young emerging designers.
London College of Fashion taught me how to become a designer; from basic research, design to actual clothes making, their technical background and knowledge opened my eyes completely. They also required me to intern with designers and work professionally in the real world as part of the school assignment. I learned so much from the process and have made some life long friends.
NEWGEN/ BFC - they are extremely helpful and supportive to me from the beginning, and it means a lot more than words can tell here.
CFE (Centre for Fashion Enterprise) helped a lot in terms of range planning, costing to cash-flow. They help designers understand their brand value and communicate knowledge on copyrights and trademarks. DISC (Designer-Manufacturer Innovation Support Centre)'s courses are great with technical commutation and production progress. Their skills are extremely useful when dealing with factories sampling and production.
I also seek expert advice from Sarah Mower OBE, Lulu Kennedy MBE and Mandi Lennard when necessary.
What are your businesses four main expenses?
- Costs for the show during London Fashion Week: the bi-annual show is a project of big magnitude which incurs a huge amount of expenses for sampling the new collections & show shoes, models, music, casting, show invites; etc. Despite the fact that it is a heavy financial burden on emerging designers, I think it is worth doing when you want to pursue your dreams and fantasy, and it can put you under the spotlight on an international platform.
- Production costs for collections: purchase/development of fabric and accessories and production by factories have also constituted a major part of the expenses for my business.
- Sales showroom activities in Paris: these can connect me with international buyers and increase sale opportunities, but it costs a lot for the rental of the Paris showroom, remuneration for sales assistants, travel and accommodation expenses, lookbooks and line sheets; etc.
- Daily operation costs: the studio rent and management costs, PR consultancy fees....
With hindsight did you start up with an appropriate amount of funding?
It costs quite a lot to start up a business because we are working in the real world with studio rent, cost of sampling and producing the collection even with ourselves not being paid a penny! The support from Fashion East and BFC's NEWGEN scheme did help a lot, but emerging designers always have to ask favours from friends in the industry and try to make magic happen with an unreasonably low budget. You will be lucky if you have support from your family.