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A time to dress with optimism: In conversation with Dion Lee

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A time to dress with optimism: In conversation with Dion Lee

A household name in Australian fashion, Dion Lee is a maestro of architectural, unisex style. Consistently relevant while taking cues from bygone 90s designers, the eponymous brand has become renowned for tailoring, denim and emboldened shapes since its debut in 2009.

A tour through the racks of the Dion Lee wardrobe gives way to structure and form, while remaining fluid in gender and free from prescriptions of how to wear. That part is up to you. Each season flows on from the last, with Dion Lee pieces standing the test of time in a modern wardrobe, free from seasonally-binding constraints.

The corset has been one of the most popular recent silhouettes on Australian shores for the label, with myriad fashion fans looking to Dion Lee for new interpretation of reemerging, nostalgic shapes. It was even paid homage to on the famed red carpet of the Met Gala, adorning Jeremy Pope in all-white elegance.

But while the brand has its roots here, Dion has since relocated to fashion’s epicentre: New York City. Between shoots and a flurry of fashion fanfare in recent weeks, we catch Dion on a call to check in on life in the Big Apple. Here, he tells us of the city’s vibrant throng in a new era of post-Covid possibility, advice for new designers, plus what to expect in the next chapter of Dion Lee, coming soon to Harrolds.

Dion Lee pieces stand the test of time in a modern wardrobe, free from seasonally-binding constraints

 Give us a quick update on where you are right now in the world and what you’re working on.

I’m in New York finishing off our spring collection. We’ve got another runway presentation in New York this October, so we’re also in the midst of finishing off tht collection while focusing on our New York store. It’s opening early November on Mercer street, in the middle of Soho. Our offices will be above the store which is great for hands-on proximity.

The androgynous duality of your clothing is becoming a clear hallmark of Dion Lee. What role does gender fluidity and inclusivity play in your designs?

It really starts with the design process. For a lot of pieces, we design so that they can be fitted and worn by both male and female customers. This allows me to wear the clothes myself , and immerse myself into the place and perspective of who is designing it. When you’re wearing your own product, it makes such a different to how things are cut and how things look. When we’re developing a collection and trying it on in multiple different contexts, the design changes depending on who’s wearing it, regardless of gender.

How have your preoccupations with structure, fabrication and diversity developed in the last couple of years?

The product has become more of an overall wardrobe that we try to build on season to season. For me it’s been about designing into the identity of the brand, with each collection adding to the previous one and continuing with a strong sense of evolution. It’s usually informed by what pieces that I’m actively looking for and can’t find anywhere else, but genuinely want to wear. We design with intention, always. Our accessories are also becoming more of a core to Dion Lee across all categories like jewellery, footwear and eyewear. They’ll all feature in our New York retail space once it opens.

There’s a lot of discussion at the moment around the limitations and benefits of producing clothes locally. How do you decide where each garment is made?

It’s driven by where the fabrication is coming from. For example, leather is coming from Italy, so produce a lot of those leather-made pieces there, along with a lot of tailoring. Denim is grounded in LA. Location changes, because it’s about where the manufacturers who specialise in the product you’re creating are. We’ve moved our fabrications over the years to really focus on sustainable core programs around our jersey, our denim and our tailoring.

What’s the atmosphere like in New York right now?

Been a shift in terms of how people are approaching occasionwear and how people are dressing for daywear. I’ve found it really interesting to be in New York at this time, with a real return to dressing and people wanting to go out again, as well as a revival of events. There’s this sense of optimism with fashion—everyone is so excited to step back out into the world.

A piece of advice for any Australian emerging designers in 2021?

I think it’s really important for emerging designers to have a really strong signature and be able to communicate in the digital world. What’s so amazing is that brands can be from anywhere and have global access through ecommerce—it allows more designers to really have a voice, if they want to communicate.

A label (international or local) you admire right now and why?

That’s a hard one. A lot of the designers I was influenced by were from the early 90s. When Dion Lee was started, so much of my inspiration came from designers I was studying, like early Helmut Lang and a few others. That aesthetic really influenced me in fashion school and is still so strong within my brand today.

Shop Dion Lee at Harrolds online or in store, and expect to see SS22 drop in the coming months.

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