Our Q&A With 22-Year-Old Wunderkind Designer, Dion Lee

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dion-lee-head-shot Dion Lee may only be only 22 years old, but three years after showing his graduate collection, his spring '11 collection has nearly guaranteed himself a role on the world stage. Shown at the Sydney Opera House during Rosemount Australia Fashion, Lee's spring '11 collection showed a rare maturity and virtuoso technique that could rival any established designer. We're confidant that this little guy is Australia's Next Big Thing, so we sat down with Dion to chat about his work, his dreams, and life beyond the continent. Click through for our Q&A with the wunderkind, himself.
How would you define Australian style?
A lot about the way Australians dress has to do with our climate and comfort, and that's how people approach fashion here so it's very wearable and comfortable. I think the way I approach it is to work with those elements and allow the tailoring to be more comfortable and have elements of breaking things open to allow the clothes to breathe.
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Who is the Dion Lee woman?
Sometimes, I'm not sure! I suppose there is a certain strength in how a woman approaches clothing. There is a real effortlessness. She shouldn't be too caught up in fashion. I want to promote the individual and as I mature, I don't want the pieces to overpower who the woman is.
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What were you working on before you began your label? How did the label come to be?
I did a graduate collection that I was invited to show at Australian Fashion Week, three years ago now. It was a group show with a few other students I graduated with. The Australian press was fantastic and also key retailers were quite supportive in the initial stages. It's very hard to get the ball rolling if you don't have buyers.
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It has been three years ago since you graduated from Fashion Design Studio at the Sydney Institute of Technology. What have you learned about life in the industry in that time?
It's a funny business. I've sort of thrown myself in the deep end. It's important for people to push you forward and encourage you to do the next thing. As for the business side of it, when you're in design school, it's good not to think about that or take into consideration such elements such as price points or retailers. It's important to have an awareness of how the business side of it operates, but still keep the integrity of the brand. It's great to have a naiveté towards those elements of it, but I also don't want to be ignorant to those aspects of it now
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We hear you will be in New York in September! What sets apart Australian designers from American designers?
I suppose it has a lot to do with our lifestyle. Our clothes parallel the lifestyle we lead, which is quite relaxed in a way. Especially in summer, how we live our lives is important. There is a real outdoor element in Australia and that is something our designers reflect in their design. It's true; I will be in New York in September, along with Paris and London. I have not yet been to New York and I am so excited!
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What is your working method as a designer?
I certainly have strange ways of working, in a sense! I do draw a little bit, but I'd certainly be embarrassed to show anyone my drawings! I'm not exactly an amazing illustrator. My ideas are construction-based and I work thinking about descriptions of construction and about how things will take shape or form. I like to focus on making the patterns because that's where [the magic] really happens.
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What inspired you for spring '11?
I wanted the structured tailoring to be contradicted by something new, fluid and draped but still have the structure. I wanted to breathe new life into them in an unexpected kind of way. I was looking at traditional tailoring techniques, like using horse hair. With a lot of those mesh textures, I was replicating where the structure is internally within the garment and bringing that to the outside. I was looking at the Rorschach inkblots and how those could be something that was a little more impulsive. Draping is something quite organic, and a contradiction to quite sculptured tailoring. I wanted to create something that was more free and subconscious.
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What is one thing we must know about Dion Lee?
I am a Libra!
What sort of music do you listen to while you work? There's quite a variety to what I listen to when I work. Yes, I use music to put myself into a mood. When I was working on this new collection, I was listening to Charlotte Gainsbourg's new album on a loop for days!
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