Taking Shape

Interview by Stephanie Peh
Images courtesy of Dion Lee

Born and raised in Sydney, 26-year-old Dion Lee’s background includes a stint in acting before realising that his childhood obsession with clothing and craft could materialise as a career. Starting straight out of college, he pushed on and worked hard for his eponymous label. Three years ago, he announced his arrival with a stellar runway debut on the world stage, still celebrated and talked about till today.

With the launch of just seven collections, he has already garnered accolades that include some of Australia’s most prestigious fashion awards, including the QANTAS Spirit of Youth Award, the Prix de Marie Claire Emerging Designer Award and the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival Designer Award, Australia’s most prestigious emerging designer award, as well as the coveted nod of approval from Vogue editor, Anna Wintour.

Despite the attention and praise showered upon his humble shoulders, the young designer stays true to his honest intentions and continues to create collections with a hands-on approach, constantly inventing his own methods of treating materials.

Curious to better understand the mind of the pattern-making extraordinaire and how his work remains sensitive to the body, we chat with Dion, as he generously shares the beliefs, values and inspirations that feed his craft.

Hi Dion, could you please take us through your design process?

Collections always start with concepts and ideas that happen quite early. At the start of each season, I experiment with form and fabric. From there, I start sketching and collecting references before working with silhouettes and shapes. I work with a lot of fabrics that mould and sit away from the body, with an idea of air and light moving through things. It’s a very sculptural process.

A lot of thought goes into your craft. What are the most difficult and enjoyable parts of the process for you?

Time is definitely a challenge. You only discover how successful a collection can be as the process goes on. It is nice to spend time experimenting and perfecting what the collection is about, as it is always difficult to look at it and know that it could have been taken further.

I love it when I start with an idea that is quite abstract, which then turns into something accessible, practical and wearable; something which you really want to wear. Seeing that process coming to fruition and photographing a representation of the process is the most enjoyable part. It’s very nice to finally see the clothes on the body and how successful it is.

I’m very involved in the entire process and enjoy putting a concept together for a shoot. I love casting, editing and everything that contributes to evolving the brand and telling the stories behind the collections through visuals. I work closely with a team of stylists who help me with art direction, an amazing hair director and a make-up artist. When you work with the same people all the time, you are able to innovate and push things forward.

Dion lee taking shape

Read more in The U Press N˚2 (Singapore edition).