Kwaidan Editions’s Léa Dickely and Hung La are stealthily making some of the edgiest women’s fashion around. Their five-year-old label is a reliable resource for lanky tailored trench coats, jackets, trousers, and apron dresses—in fetish rubber. Now, they’re expanding into menswear, launching a new brand they’ve named Lu’u Dan, which is Vietnamese for pomegranate bullet; more loosely it means grenade or dangerous man. Kwaidan Editions is Dickely’s project and it leans sartorial, Lu’u Dan is La’s and it’s more street.
“The concept grew over lockdown,” said La, who’s previously designed at Balenciaga and Celine. “We were at home [in London], it was the whole George Floyd moment, [about] identity and race. What came up for me was a yearning for my roots.” La was raised in Rockville, Maryland, outside of Washington DC, a first generation American born to Vietnamese parents, and in his youth he rejected his Asian identity. “I remember being a kid and I wanted to go to summer camp. I didn’t want to go on vacation with my parents in Asia.” Eventually, he continued, “I started to meditate [and] I realized there’s such beauty—I like to say there’s a we in Asian identity. There’s a culture. The stories need to be told and celebrated.”
La’s mood board is papered with images by Watanabe Katsumi and George Hashiguchi, Japanese street photographers that he believes haven’t gotten the recognition they deserve. The collection picks up on pieces that recur in those pictures, like baggy bontan sweats and wide-leg tartan trousers that taper above the ankles in a way that was popularized in Tokyo in the 1980s. “It’s fashion, we’re not bashful about taking codes from Asian gangsters or cinema,” said La, citing the 1996 Hong Kong crime film Young and Dangerous and Ichi the Killer, a 2001 action slasher movie by the Quentin Tarantino collaborator Takashi Miike. “[We want to] pay respect, not commodify it, but try to do it with authenticity. That’s our challenge as designers in making things modern.”
The clothes also lift from La’s own heritage. The floral design on a pink silk shirt is a replica of a painting by his 95-year-old grandmother. “She used to do these beautiful Japanese-inspired paintings,” he said, and there are references to Kenzo Takada, Kansai Yamamoto, and Yohji Yamamoto, as well.