Bench Fashion Week SS2024: Le Ngok’s Individualist Runway Storytelling

By Marane A. Plaza

After a quick video brief about the new collection from fashion label Le Ngok, an enigmatic music filled the catwalk space earlier at the Bench Tower, which signaled the start of the runway showcase of Carla Zhang, the brand’s fashion designer and creative director, for Bench Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2024.

Distinct from the usual runway walk, each of the models conveyed off-beat, eccentric moves while showing off their avant garde ensembles in either colorful yarns or neon ruffles. Every one of them was seemingly telling a deeper story than meets the eye. Then there was one particular model slash dancer in black and white backless dress who was visible the entire showcase, as if seducing the others with intricate, mesmerizing choreography.

“The girl was representing me, as she went through the many phases of emotions. Every group of four pieces from the collection was representing each of my four stages of emotions– confusion, self-discovery, trapped in a circle and embracing everything. The collection is a story of my own self-discovery,” Carla shared in a late-night interview with STYLISH right after the fashion show.

The fashion series was titled “There’s Nothing Wrong” which was basically “a self-talk” as per the designer, citing how she navigated the past couple of years dealing with anxiety disorder.

“It’s like telling myself that there’s nothing wrong with me, as I finally accepted my own journey with anxiety after many consultations with physicians. I learned that anxiety is the most common mental health problem today, maybe because of the social media or the speed of society. After immersing myself with meditation and expressing my emotions through fashion and creativity, the collection is like a conviction and belief for myself, that I am what I believe to be.”

Such purposeful self-talk is what Carla aims to impart with her audience for her every collection, after she herself was deeply moved by a fashion runway showcase by another visionary: Alexander McQueen.

“I want my audience to connect strongly with my collection and feel the emotions on a deeper level, just like when I first saw Alexander McQueen’s spring/summer 2001 collection called ‘Voss’ and his 2011 ‘Savage Beauty’ art exhibition. I first saw the photos of videos of them back in 2013, and I was so moved. That’s how I realized that fashion is not just about making or wearing clothes, but actually a showmanship of the emotions, concepts and storytelling that I want to express,” she said.

Express, she did. Even the background music the models/dancers moved to during her runway showcase was from her own creative direction, with the help of music producer JV Capinpin. From the clothes, accessories, hats down to the choreo, everything was from the vision of Carla, with the help of interpretation by fashion show director Robby Carmona.

The 17-piece collection boasted of the many different manipulations and techniques that Carla performed for each design, showcasing knitwear, crochet and macrame. “I like using string things, like yarns, cords, or zippers that were yet to be weaved, crocheted or sewn. I love creating from scratch or raw materials. 70% of the materials I used for this collection were from my own stacked goods from the past couple of years.”

Her collection pieces are under her clothing label Le Ngok, derived from her Chinese nickname “Le” which means joy, and her mother’s family name “Ngok”. Meanwhile, aside from her avant garde pieces, Carla has been noticed the past years for her bags under her accessories line The Pot. The Chinese designer chose the Philippines as her home for the past 8 years, finishing a degree in fashion and marketing at the SoFa Design Institute. She was more than delighted when she was invited to have a runway show at the Bench Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2024.

Towards the end of the captivating music and movements, all 16 models embraced the dancer who was consistently moving and present the entire catwalk show. “That’s like me embracing all of those phases of my emotions,” the designer said. “It’s like me being at peace with my journey. I intend to make fashion my medium of my storytelling and creativity, like an artist.”

Le Ngok creative director and fashion designer Carla Zhang with Ben Chan

The fashion presentation was a thought-provoking, moving story indeed.