You could say that the inspiration for Jen Kao's spring 2012 collection came to her in a dream. Or, more accurately, in all of her dreams. "I've been having crazy, lucid dreams since I was a little kid," Kao told us. "There's often fear in them, but I wanted to introduce something romantic and beautiful to that scary dream-state."
The show, meant to bring onlookers into that same half-awake, half-dreaming state, opened with a vision of the sun slowly rising on a model, her hair tied up into an elaborate paper chapeau. What followed was an eclectic mix of prints and patterns, some psychedelic, others vaguely tribal, that combined to create a strangely alien impression. Some references felt earthly and familiar (like loopy floral motifs inspired by toxic blooms) while others, like the elaborate paper hats and accessories, felt more futuristic.
The concept may have been abstract and, in all likelihood, impossible to guess at without being told, but many of the pieces in the spring collection demonstrated Kao's remarkable eye for detail. An elaborately embellished cocktail dress in soft orange seemed to be crafted entirely from delicate paper blooms, while a spiky, horn-like detail on a bustier dress gave a familiar silhouette an uncommon edge.