There was plenty fluttering about the backstage of Jen Kao’s spring show, quite literally. Kao, who opens up her creative purview with each increasing season, teamed up with Paper-Cut-Project of Atlanta to create ornate paper pieces to add movement to each one of Kao’s looks. Photographer Sandy Kim caught the bits and pieces—and slivers, and twists, and folds—as the finishing touches were put on the fragile accessories.
Cuts and slices were a big part of Kao’s collection, which played with the idea of fragile fabric layered over something more substantial and solid. Bustiers had extreme horns and tops were webbed and frayed. Even embroidery was standalone, often taking up the negative space on a sheer fabric. Kao’s urban tribal warrior still exists, and the collection was either Mad Max-esque post-apocalyptic, or even from some sort of utopian future where sunset-colored garments could draw from Asian references, African prints, and technologically advanced fabrics. The paper additions added to the theme of tough fragility: sure, they were made of 8.5x11s, but they came as shoulder pads, wrist cuffs and massive helmets.
Jen Kao’s hyper-cool aesthetic is uniquely hers, and there is a definite sense that the models who walk for her show are actual fans, as well. They take to Kao’s sense of drama easily, cooing over the garments and effortlessly assuming the colorful warrior-goddess persona. Not one would have a problem walking off the runway, out the door, and onto the streets of New York in her collection—with or without the paper head-dress attached.