Dion Lee On Didgeridoos And Being A Libra

Many people have been to Australia, but I am not one of them. As far as I know, it’s filled with really large crocodiles and the most laid back people on Earth. If I ever get there, I’d want to visit my cousins in Punchbowl, not get bit by a hammerhead shark and make my way to Perth to find out what helicopter photographer Thomas Rowe is doing. In the meantime, I got the chance to talk to Australian designer Dion Lee about fashion. I’ll have to save the walkabout for another time.

Milk Made: Why are you doing this?

Dion Lee: I don’t know. That’s a very big question to answer… I’ve always been interested in design and it’s kind of what I want to do.

MM: Your design is often times labeled as conceptual. Do you think that’s fair?

DL: Probably neither. I don’t really view my work as conceptual—I think that is a bit of a tricky word. I’m interested in trying to create things that feel new and unfamiliar, and often that’s combining different fabrics and silhouettes, but never with the intention to be viewed as being futuristic. Probably just trying to create a feeling of something new more than anything.

MM: What is it like to read people’s reviews of your work?

DL: It’s fine; fashion is really about interpretation and what resonates with people. As a designer, you have to allow people to take their own interpretation of something and it’s not something you can control too much.

MA: You’re from Sydney and you made your first splash through Australian Fashion Week. I’ve never been to Australia, but do you think there’s a specific Australian style that ties Australian designers together?

DL: I think there is. There’s an attitude and style in how the clothes are worn, not necessarily the perspective of the collections if that makes sense. I think there’s a way that Australians put clothes together that is quite relaxed and has a certain sense of ease. Australian designers aren’t about making things that are too contrived. It’s about the lifestyle more than anything else.

MA: People often comment about your use of balance in your designs. I was thinking, what they mean is your designs are like marsupials, where they’re both prehistoric and cutting edge. Any comment on that?

DL: I’d say that’s a pretty good description. [laughs] I’d say I’m a Libra and that’s where the balance is from more than any prehistoric reference.

MM: Paul Hogan, Steve Irwin, and now Dion Lee—how does it feel to be part of such a prestigious Aussie gang?

DL: It’s pretty great! [laughs again] I think the way people view Australian clichés is pretty interesting from an Australian’s perspective. It’s really insightful to see what people associate with the country, and it’s often fun to play on that.

MM: You’re currently working with a group in Australia called Cue Clothing Company. What do you think is more important to you personally: domestic growth within Australia or international growth?

DL: I think it’s both. We just opened up our first store in Sydney, and yeah, it’s been an amazing experience to create something that allows me to show the entire collection at one time. I think, for us, it’s continuing to strengthen what we’re doing at home but also opening it up to an audience internationally.

MA: Do you think all fashion designers are inherently nerds?

DL: Yeah, it’s pretty nerdy. It’s a pretty nerdy thing to do. When I studied fashion, I was more interested in being a pattern maker than anything else—like how things are cut, and it’s a pretty technical side of what you are doing—and considering the other nonsense of what you are doing as a fashion designer, it’s a really nice quiet place in all of the chaos that comes along with the job.

MM: Uh-um. Cause I think you must all be nerds, and that’s there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s like playing guitar—every single rock star had to stay in their room and practice…

DL: Totally. I agree.

MM: Okay, so this is stupid, but how old were you when you first learned to play the didgeridoo? Furkin’ Jeff wanted me to ask you that. He’s a contemporary of mine.

DL: I don’t know, I think it was kindergarten where all the kids learn. I think it was age four.

MM: That was an unexpected answer. Do people from in the designer world treat you differently because you’re Australian? Like you’re not sophisticated or something?

DL: Um, not to my face. [laughs] You’d have to ask other people that question.

MM: Right. People treat me like an idiot and it has nothing to do with where I’m from. Okay, so—who do you design for? What type of person?

DL: I think all the people who are all around me. You naturally draw on the opinion of the people you live your life with, so I think there’s lots of women who find there way into the collection by spending time with them more than anything else.

MM: If there’s one thing you’re most excited about this fashion week, what is it?

DL: My show being over. It’s always a nice thing to have it wrap up and being to chill out and unwind.

MM: Ditto man. Fucking ditto.

Illustration by Justine Foord @ Velem; IG: @justinefoord

Twitter: @countslackula

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