Lunch with Dion Lee
Dion Lee is one of the most exciting and sought after designers in Australian fashion and is releasing a one-off women’s collection for Target on July 2. I caught up with Lee to chat about the Dion Lee for Target range, his design process and aspirations to pursue film or sculpture.
How did your collaboration with Target come about?
Target approached me about doing collaboration about a year ago … I was considering how I would approach something like this and I was quite drawn to a performance-wear range, something that was quite athletic and incorporated a lot of the technical fabrications that I have within the collection, but doing it in a way that felt accessible and easy to the Target customer.
What is your design process?
It’s quite different for each collection. I suppose you are designing all the time and you are constantly seeing things when you travel. I try to explain to people that it’s kind of the collage that is going on in your head. You’re always inspired by new films, art, culture, and you are responding to what people around you are wearing and I suppose it’s the ideas that come from that.
Does the process differ when you are designing a collection for Target, compared to your own main line?
It’s very different compared to when designing for our main-line runway collection because [my main line] is a very specific product and is really about exploring each idea as beautifully and as elevated as we can, and this was about designing a product that is as inclusive as possible and speaking to a much broader audience. So there was a lot more consideration about the fabric, body shape and other things that all had to be taken into account.
Do you still get nervous when launching a new collection?
I do, definitely! And I think for this, it was a new capsule and something that I hadn’t done before so it did still feel that nervous process.
Is it just a capsule collection or will it continue?
It is just a capsule collection; it’s only in store for four weeks. But I’ve really enjoyed this category so I am open to what might happen.
You’re joined a long list of esteemed designers who have collaborated with Target, including Missoni, Roberto Cavalli and Stella McCartney. Do you expect a stampede when it hits stores?
[Laughs] I’m not sure, I suppose I hope so but I don’t think I’ll be going into store to watch!
What is a woman’s ultimate wardrobe essential?
A tailored black blazer is the most important element to a woman’s wardrobe. It’s a classic piece that works back with everything.
When you were younger did you always envisage your life the way it is today?
Definitely not. I think that the past few years have been pretty crazy and the brand is continuing to grow. I think the next thing for me is to continue to build the international business and spending more time overseas. I’m really excited about what’s next.
What are your plans internationally?
We are continuing to show in New York, which is really strong market for us, so it’s important to spend more time there and support the growth there.
Do you have plans to expand into other lines within your business?
Yes, definitely. We are working on accessories at the moment: eyewear, a shoe collection and also some other projects that I can’t talk about just yet. And I would love to work on men’s wear eventually. I’m just waiting on the right time to do that. It’s almost like a new business and I would need a whole team to manage that.
If you could dress anyone in your designs, who would it be?
I’d love to one day dress Cate Blanchett in the collection.
Your designs have been seen in the pages of American Vogue. What’s it like when you have to show your collection to Anna Wintour – is that daunting?
Yes, it’s very daunting [laughs]. I still get very nervous in those situations. I think that I am becoming more comfortable in those scenarios but it definitely takes some practice. It’s never not scary [laughs]!
What is she like?
She has a very intelligent perspective view on fashion and was very interested in speaking about my business and where my clothes were made and getting a real understanding to what kind of designer I was. She comes at it from a business perspective, which is great. You can see that from all the American designers she has supported; she’s very good at foresting them as really strong businesses.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Hopefully working between Australia and New York and continuing to work with new and exciting people and continuing to be really inspired by what I’m doing.
What do you do in your spare time?
I always try and do something that takes me away from my work. I try and go away a bit and make the most of my weekends. I went to Tasmania a couple of weekends ago and New Zealand a few weeks before that. I just try to explore and go to new places and do some hiking.
If you didn’t become a designer, what would you have done?
I would have explored film and potentially explored directing. I really love the creative-direction elements of my role … and trying to convey a strong feeling, and would love to explore that in film.
Will you ever pursue directing?
Yes, I would definitely love to do that. Film or sculpture, I would definitely love another creative profession that allowed me to explore the ideas [that I have] in a different way.
What are some of your favourite films?
I love Michel Gondry films. He’s a French director, his films are often very abstract and, I suppose, surreal in ways, and I love things that mix an element of things that are quite realistic with techniques that are quite abstract and surreal.
WE WENT TO La Porte Space, Waterloo.
WE ATE a selection of cakes and pastries.
WE DRANK coffee and tea
DION WORE Nike shoes, Acne jeans and Cos sweater.
I WORE Christopher Esber skirt and top.
See behind the scenes from this interview on Fashion Bloggers on tonight at 9:30pm on Foxtel’s E! channel.