Interview with Dion Lee: "Personally, I'd love to extend past clothing to product or furniture design"
Onwards and upwards
Young designers who rise to international prominence with an eponymous label are a rare breed. Paris has Jacquemus, London has Craig Green, and Australia, Dion Lee. He who treads the fine line between the subtly seductive and boyishly gamine, executed with sinuous detailing right down to the stitch.
Within seven years of his debut, Lee now shows at New York Fashion Week, is backed by a strong presence on the red carpet, and has a spot on the virtual racks of leading multi-label e-shops the likes of Matches Fashion, Net-A-Porter and Shopbop. In short, his rise has been nothing short of meteoric. Having wrapped up his spring 2017 runways in New York and back home at Telstra Perth Fashion Festival (TPFF), the designer tells us what's on the horizon for Dion Lee. Let's just say, he's not losing steam.
How and when did your interest in fashion develop?
I grew up in Sydney, and from a really young age was always creating something. I remember being particuarly interested in the construction of clothing and to this day that's what excites me most about fashion. Studying design helped foster my creativity and develop my skills, and straight after graduating, I launched the label.
What are your thoughts on the 'see now, buy now' model that many designers have adopted this season in New York? As Michael Kors said, the spring shows are going on while the weather is still warm, and the clothes suit the current climate. That really made sense. Is this something you see yourself implementing for the brand?
I think the issues with the traditional fashion model have been amplified by social media with fashion shows becoming much more consumer focused. It makes sense that there is a growing frustration that collections are only available six months after they are first shown and product feels almost like old news and not weather appropriate by the time it reaches stores. Like the rest of the industry, the 'see now, buy now' model is of course something we will explore, taking into consideration the implications for production and our wholesale business.
What I love about your clothes is the attention to detail in each piece. How and where do you begin designing each collection, and what do you look to for inspiration?
I generally look to sources outside of clothing for inspiration. Usually architecture and art, and especially sculpture. I also find travel really important to gain a fresh perspective and new reference points for concept development. Each collection is an evolutionary process for me and I'm continually revisiting references to develop ideas and techniques.
How did you challenge yourself to push the technical and construction aspects of clothing design for spring 2017?
Pushing the boundaries of design and innovation has always been key for the brand. The SS17 collection that we've just presented in New York features silhouettes that sit off the body in athletic fabrics. The collection was inspired by kinetic artworks, linear elements and movement, translating into technical construction details including layered transparencies, engineered thermal film, and configured pleating.
How do you see yourself and the brand growing in the near future?
We've just moved our design studio to New York so there's a much bigger focus on growing the brand internationally, particularly in the United States. Personally, I'd love to extend past clothing to product or furniture design, something I've always been really interested in exploring.
In your opinion, what is a woman's most powerful asset?
Her confidence and energy.
Who is the one person, dead or alive, that you'd really love to see in Dion Lee clothing?
It's always inspiring to see someone — whether it's a celebrity or client — wearing the brand. I would love to dress Tilda Swinton.
How do you unwind and take your mind off work?
I've just found a great yoga studio around the corner from our New York office and head there when I need to decompress.
What would you say is your most Australian attribute?
Probably my love for being close to nature and beautiful environments. Being near the beach is what I miss most about my new home in New York.