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TexSelect 2018: Meet the Judges, Michael Angove

http://www.texselect.org.uk/texselect-2018-meet-the-judges-michael-angove/
Fine artist and textile designer Michael Angove talks about British gardens, the phoenix mentality, and how to make it as a new designer. Michael joins the TexSelect 2018 judging panel in July to select this year’s prize winners.
Welsh-born Michael Angove is the personification of his minimalist-meets-maximalist aesthetic. Just after offering a critical analysis of the design industry today, he launches into a lively story about how a scorpion once landed on his leg in Italy. As fate would have it, he’s a Scorpio himself, so he resolved to include the exotic creature, within a British landscape, in his own designs. “I’m very much an extension of my work,’ he explains. ‘My designs are flamboyant and fun – but my fine art work is much more cerebral; sometimes witty, sometimes quiet.”
He’s a TexSelect veteran – initially participating when he graduated with a BA from Winchester in 1995, and again after his Royal College of Art MA in 2000. Since then, Michael has collaborated with a broad variety of brands from Agent Provocateur to Jo Malone London, producing larger-than-life chinoiseries, which always feature a hidden surprise. In 1995, he scooped the Liberty Print Prize, as well as the Marks & Spencer Breaking New Ground prize, which gave him excellent recognition, but, most importantly, led to his meeting people he’s still friends with today. While spending some time living in Italy, Michael worked for Jean Paul Gaultier and Hugo Boss before returning to England, being talent spotted by Liberty, and founding his own company. He sells his hand-drawn fine art worldwide from Hong Kong to Miami and now resides in the Wiltshire countryside, taking an occasional break from his busy work schedule to walk his Jack Russell, Audrey.
Michael’s maximalist designs are full of colour and life, whether it’s the brilliant red of roses set against a pink background in his Jo Malone packaging, or the chinoiserie of a fir tree crossed with Berberis thorn for his Agent Provocateur wallpaper. The idea of hiding something in his designs so that they tell a story – “like leaving a little breadcrumb trail” – was born out of creating wallpaper. “I wanted to have a wallpaper people didn’t get bored with… so I hid into it the beak of a bird or antenna of a bug… People phone me up two years later, and say, ‘I just found this incredible beetle on my wallpaper that I’ve never seen before!’ ”
His minimalist artwork, meanwhile, is influenced by his Welsh upbringing in the coastal town of Barry, an “honest, and humble and simple existence”, as he puts it. He’s currently working on a solo show of drawings of simple, Georgian articles to be exhibited in November – from sugar crushers to brooches. “This isn’t just an ordinary sugar crusher made out of glass… it’s 200 years old, it might have fed 100 people or 1000, who knows?” he muses. He wants his drawings, like his textile designs, to tell a story.
Michael is inspired by those, like him, who “have got that strange, quirky, British sense of individual design and style.” They include Elizabeth Blackadder, a Scottish watercolourist, as well as Grayson Perry and Alexander McQueen. “There’s definitely a sense of Britishness in my own designs… I always refer back to this moment in my childhood, playing in the garden and climbing up lilac trees, finding bird’s nests and butterflies. My design work is hugely inspired by British gardens, as they’re unlike any other gardens in the world.”
His BA in textile design was very analogue. “I just had a pot of paint and a toolkit of materials. By the time I did my MA at the Royal College of Art, digital designing had really come on board… everything I did at the Royal was 100% digital.” Judging by his process, starting with 3D scans of flowers or insects – often found in his own garden – you wouldn’t have thought that he’d ever had any trouble with technology. “Back in the day, at the RCA, we had to be taught how to switch on a computer… I learned to crawl, drawing, and then learned how to run, being on a computer.”
The RCA’s logo is a phoenix, and the “rising from the ashes” idea has influenced Michael personally. “It’s that kind of mentality that you can always do better, that you can always revisit your work. That’s a part of me now, as well.”
What advice would Michael offer to young designers today? “Persevere. And try everything… digital and analogue are two different worlds, but every good designer needs a balance of both of them.” And, most importantly, he says, know your value. “Really, good design affects everything. It’s the car you drive, it’s the clothes you wear, it’s the ergonomics of the toothbrush that you use in the morning… Right now, there’s a lack of understanding about it. But we’re here to change that.”

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The Illusion Shattered: Fashion’s Mental Health Problem 

Outwardly, the fashion industry is portrayed as glamorous and exciting, a vision that attracts many young people to work in it. However high-profile incidents of mental illness and substance abuse affecting many of the most famous names in the design world suggest a different reality. Are ‘tortured artists’ inherently drawn to the industry – or does it create them?
In February 2010, Alexander McQueen was found dead in his Mayfair flat. One of Britain’s most successful designers had hung himself, sending shockwaves within the fashion industry and the outside world alike. To those in the know, his death was not altogether surprising. His psychiatrist, Dr Stephen Pereira, had diagnosed McQueen with mixed anxiety and depressive disorder several years prior. The suicide of close friend and stylist Isabella Blow and the death of his mother had had a significant effect on his psyche. However, McQueen, Pereira explained, also ‘Felt very pressured by his work’, the ‘Double-edged sword’ that brought him great pain as well as joy.
McQueen’s death was not an isolated incident. In June of this year, Kate Spade became the third high-profile fashion designer to take her own life, after L’Wren Scott’s passing in 2014.  Justine Picardie, long-term editor of Harper’s Bazaar, admits: ‘There is a very dark side to the life of a designer… The reason clothes are potent is because of what they are covering up’.
According to a survey by the US Centre for Disease Control, the fashion industry ranks seventh on the list of industries most commonly associated with mental illness, while the Mental Health Foundation reports that those in creative careers such as fashion are 25% more likely to experience mental health problems. From Marc Jacobs’ two visits to rehab to John Galliano’s racist 2011 rant, examples of mental distress in the fashion industry are numerous.
In the words of Aristotle, ‘No great genius has existed without a strain of madness’. Are creative people simply prone to mental health issues? According to a 2015 study by Icelandic genetics company deCODE, writers, painters, dancers and artists are 25% more likely to carry genes for schizophrenic and bipolar disorder. Meanwhile, ‘eccentricity and edginess are positively encouraged in fashion… so some who have a propensity towards mental illness may be attracted to the field,’ says Victoria Tischler, a psychologist at the University of West London. Creatives also have a keen eye for detail and have tendencies to replay things in their minds – particularly mistakes – while depression is amplified in those who ruminate on their thoughts.  Creative people tend to take more risks and persist in the face of rejection, and they struggle to stick to conventional schedules and find the pressures of deadlines and budgets difficult.  According to Nancy C Andreasen, a neuroscientist who spent thirty years studying writers, these “creative” personality traits ‘lead to psychic pain, which may manifest itself as depression or anxiety’.
But a predisposition to mental illness is only part of the story. The high-pressure, high-speed nature of the fashion world can push people over the edge. From the public to the media to the designers’ own perfectionism, the fashion world thrives on the judgement and approval of others. Some designers relish this: an anonymous young fashion designer, contributing to an i-D article on mental health, explained: ‘That’s also when I’m happiest, when it’s scary, when you’re presenting yourself to the world and waiting to see if they like it.. it’s almost sadomasochistic, I enjoy the fear.’
However, other young designers lament the impractical workload. Laura Fanning, student of MA Fashion at Central Saint Martins explains that she works on her designs from 9am until 10pm six days a week (the seventh, she works a part time job), and has a ‘terrible quality of life’. Fashion, according to Caryn Franklin, fashion commentator and professor of Diversity at Kingston University ‘Expects 24 hours interest and availability… that can impact a designer’s sense of serenity and balance’. Many designers create a minimum of six collections per year – two ready to wear, two couture, two cruise. This is amplified if the fashion house designs for both women and men. Several designers have turned their back on the fast pace of ready-to-wear: while Viktor& Rolf chose to focus only on couture, Azzedine Alaia simply released his runway collections when he felt they were ready.
The problem is also in the industry’s strict hierarchical nature. ‘The older generation doesn’t see a problem with treating people badly… I hope our generation can be more community driven,’ says Fanning. It has always been a top-down sort of industry, but those at the bottom of the heap in fashion often shoulder a far heavier workload than in many other industries, while facing little (if any) reward. Victoria Tischler notes that ‘the high pressure to be original and innovative and to work excessive hours, the constant pressure of the industry to be the “next big thing”, the culture of working around the clock and therefore not getting enough rest put mental health at risk’. Social media has only made the pace of the industry even faster, creating a constant demand for a regular stream of new things – a pressure a designer always feels heavily. A heavy workload directly correlates with substance abuse: a 2015 study found that employees exceeding the EU working limit of 48 hours per week were more likely to consume harmful levels of alcohol.
The fashion industry sometimes seems to glorify these problems. Karl Lagerfeld famously commented: ‘if you are not a good bullfighter, don’t enter the arena. Fashion is a sport now – you have to run’. Designer Rick Owens has also stated that he doesn’t see a problem with encouraging competitiveness: ‘I tend to look at these things as evolutionary. I feel stimulated… busy hands are happy hands’. Getting very little sleep during Fashion Week (often, Fashion Month) is shrugged off as being the norm. Perhaps it makes the industry exciting. According to Sunna Naseer of Not Just a Label, ‘There is a tendency to glamourise unhealthy ideals: from burnt-out designers and underweight models to drinking, taking drugs and partying hard’. Extremes of various kinds are more acceptable not only in the fashion but in the creative industries more widely. Meanwhile, the hardships – from lack of sleep to excessive hours – are simply seen as an intrinsic necessity.
Fashion schools could also do more to protect their students, as the culture of over-working is also prevalent early on in the designers’ careers. Naseer, an ex-fashion design student at the Condé Nast College, admits that ‘by the third year, our tutors were eagerly telling us to forget about sleep’. Students felt pressure to constantly create and perform, making them ‘feel guilty if [they] weren’t working every second of the day’. Often, this leads to dependence on substances to keep them alert and functioning: Ambel Barnard admits that over half of her class at FEDISA couldn’t function without Ritalin, a stimulant used to treat ADHD, and she ‘almost lost a few friends due to their depression from the stresses of the course’. Some do still see the fight to be the best as a positive, as a student who wished to remain anonymous explained: ‘The pressure separates those who REALLY want it from those who are dabbling or simply not cut out for it’.
However, at what point, asks Emma Davidson of DAZED, ‘does “tough love” intended to get the best work from students and the designers they turn into become akin to bullying or abuse’? Is it when a young student tries to take their own life due to the pressures of the industry, as one did at Antwerp in March this year? That’s not to say that many students don’t suffer from their own personal demons, as those at Antwerp undoubtedly did. However, they should not also be trained simply to “survive” in this industry.  As student Cristiana Alagna explained, students are ‘trained to accept the fact that it’s OK to be emotionally, physically and psychologically broken’. The pressure to “survive” carries into in to the working world, when designers are forced to accommodate the demands of the luxury conglomerates they work for, as well as pressure to deliver from the public. John Galliano commented on his time at Dior to Vanity Fair: ‘I had all these voices in my head, asking so many questions… I was afraid to say no. I thought it showed weakness.’ Perhaps others in the industry are also driven by fear. According to Rosalind Franklin, ‘The desire for membership… and the attraction of working in fashion is very strong… there is a fear of loss of status and security if someone speaks out’.
McQueen’s darkest work, including collections such as the Highland Rape, often had the best reception. He constantly pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable in fashion, and so stylists, buyers, press and the public demanded to hear what was next. However, he also drove himself to explore his dark side. Perhaps he also believed that his best work, his genius, emerged from his darkest thoughts. Perhaps it was his own desire to be successful. ‘My shows are about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. It’s for the excitement and the goosebumps. I want heart attacks. I want ambulances,’ he once commented. While the outside world was not responsible, it was certainly a contributing factor in encouraging him to act on his darkest impulses. After all, it is these dark impulses that eventually led to his death.
The industry isn’t perfect, but it is changing.  After a slow start compared to other high-pressure industries – employees in banking are protected by the City Mental Health Alliance of 2013, for example –  fashion has begun to implement measures to protect its workers. Management consultant Fabian Hirose introduced workshops throughout London aiming to prevent “burnout” in fashion. Last month, Humans of Fashion, a non-profit organisation based in New York, launched an app offering sexual abuse victims in fashion free counselling. Unfiltered Society, meanwhile, is a fashion brand that donates £10 from each sale to a mental health charity of your choice. And events like the London College of Fashion’s panel “Mental Health in the Creative Industries” are crucial for raising awareness of the issues. But there is always room for improvement, on a larger scale.
The fashion sector needs to move fast. Depression is set to be the leading illness in the world by 2030, according to the World Health Organisation, and the effect industry pressures on young, impressionable minds merits further research and action.
The clock is ticking. 

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The Secret Intensity of Shopping (a creative feature article)

I’m up early, for a Saturday. I reluctantly stop snoozing my 9am alarm after the third time and drag myself out of bed. Not easy, considering the insomnia that’s been plaguing me for months. Every night I lie awake in bed for hours, panicking. I picture how tired I’ll be the next day, tossing and turning. When I finally do sleep, it’s a few blessed hours. It’s light and I awake quickly, as if I’d never really been asleep.
I glance over at the yellow name badge on my desk, feeling grateful I don’t have to pull on the black trousers and jumper that hang next to it. Normally I’d be working the late shift today, I wouldn’t even be up yet, but I have the day off. Today I’m getting up for myself, on my own terms. This motivates me a little as I splash cold water on my face.
I’m on a mission. It’s two weeks until our graduation ball, and I’ve got absolutely zero to wear. Well, not entirely true – I’ve got a whole wardrobe full. I’ve got another wardrobe full at home, up North. But that’s besides the point: graduation is a special occasion. I deserve something new. I’ve worked hard for 3 years, you know? And anyway, everyone else is getting a new dress.
As usual, I’ve got absolutely no idea what dress I want. Or what dress I should get, rather. With young people and balls, you never know, do you? There’ll be those girls that go full-on Cinderella, train and everything. A puffy bouffant number. The others, the ‘popular’ ones, will dress in mind with the club they’re going to later that night. Little bandage dresses that happily ignore the whole “boobs or legs” mantra. I can just picture them now, looking down their noses at the wannabe princesses, eyes filled with distaste.
I flick through my wardrobe, pulling out my favourite pair of flared jeans. Flared, because it’s spring and I’m feeling boho, and because skinny jeans make me think of 14-year-old girls crowded in front of the Odeon with their matching crop tops and Vans. Shit. Footwear. I pull a slight face as I slip on my worn-in Converse. I needed a new pair about three years ago, but they’ve never let me down so far. Sturdy. Comfortable. Easy to slip on and off. They’re the ideal shoes for shopping. I grab a cereal bar on my way out, proud of myself for being ready so early. The day stretches ahead, filled with promise.
The Jubilee line is busier than usual. I scroll through my Instagram feed looking for inspo as crowds of kids bustle past. My phone nearly gets snatched out of my hands a few times. Someone eats a McDonalds’ Chicken Select meal, and the salty smell of fries fills the carriage. My stomach rumbles.
I grab a crepe with Nutella from the stand outside Bond Street station, deciding that I’ve earned breakfast. The walk along Oxford Street is a blur of red buses and tourist group leaders waving British flags. I stop outside a huge white building lined with columns stretching to the heavens. The intermingled scents of the perfume hall, Chanel no. 5 tinged with edgy Issey Mayake, waft through the revolving door. This is it. I deserve this, I say to myself, and, with a deep breath, I make my way inside. For a second I’m caught in the door, plunged into darkness, the sunshine outside a distant memory. The doorman smiles at me. ‘Good Morning, Miss! Welcome to Selfridges.’
A glacial palace of white marble surfaces is before me. No natural light, but it’s even brighter than outside. The air conditioner is in full force, a pleasant breeze greeting the back of my neck. It’s notably quieter than on the street, too – only the odd customer breezes past. Mostly elderly couples. Sales assistants spritz me with perfumes as I walk past. A couple of them, bored with the slowness of Saturday morning, try the friendly approach.
‘Hello, would you like to try –?’
‘No thank you!’
They fall silent, realising that I’m not to be disturbed. My trainers glide silently over the marble as I speed-walk. No distractions today. Wait. Out of the corner of my eye I spy a sign. ‘Mid-season sale! Final reductions!’ I stop still in the beauty hall. I have tonnes of makeup.  But just a quick look won’t hurt anyone, surely? I wander into Estee Lauder.
‘Good morning, is there anything I can help you with?’
Somehow she talks me into buying a set of 5 of the Advanced Night Repair sheet masks, which were on offer at 30% off. I know them, my Mum uses them.
‘But I don’t need anti-aging products, I’m 20!’
‘Yes, and you have great skin, Miss! But it’s always best to start taking care of it early.’
And with that, I’m walking away with a miniature Estee Lauder bag, both pleased and disgusted with myself. It’s Mum’s birthday coming up – I resolve to give them to her. I practically sprint to the escalator to avoid any more slip-ups.
I pause on the second floor. Womenswear. But only for a certain type of woman, of course. Young and rich and thin. At least I’m two of those things, but not the most important one. Rent on my shitty South London flat is due in a couple of days. And then there’s my cousin’s hospital bills. And I don’t get paid until next week. Thank god for my overdraft, even if I’m already tens of thousands in debt. But still. I deserve today. And anyone can look, can’t they?Everyone is welcome at Selfridges. The words of Harry Gordon himself.
I drift longingly around, ending up in the Gucci boutique. Its walls and ceilings are made of a luscious pink velvet which transports me back to the 1940s in its glamour and eclectic maximalism. I feel the only Sales Assistant on duty look me up and down, assessing me. She says nothing. Apparently I’m not worthy of approaching, even though we’re taught to always approach customers in our job induction. She keeps a respectful distance, wincing as I touch the clothes. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn the Converse. I glance down. They look dirty, cheapagainst the beautiful thick carpet. I pull out a floral mini dress. It’s cute, for spring. There’s no price tag. The most expensive stores never have them, as if something like a price tag is too lower class. Primark does price tags, not Gucci.
I look up at the assistant. She manages a wry smile and then purses her lips, looking away.
‘How much is this one, please?’
She pauses before responding. ‘That one’s just £1, 750,’ she says, monotonously.
JUST? I try to maintain an air of calm as I thank her, and swiftly place the dress back on the rail. She smirks. I walk away.
The next floor up is what they lovingly call ContemporaryWomenswear. I guess that sounds better than saying cheap. I’m still sweating in shock and embarrassment, but at least I’m more in my element here. The price drops from affordable-in-my-dreams to just-possible-with-staff-discount, thank God. I wander around the huge range of brands, pausing, sometimes touching the clothing (I always like to feel the material in my hands). Karen Millen? Too mumsy. All Saints? Too alternative.
Just as I’m beginning to give up hope, near the back of the store there’s a pretty section all in lace. Self-Portrait. It’s a new brand, I know it hasn’t been in Selfridges long. I recognise it from Instagram. Their dresses are mid range, maybe about three or four hundred quid. And there’s a sale rack – perfect. There’s a gorgeous, midi-length lace number, in a kind of pink colour. Or maybe it’s peach. Either way, it’s breathtaking. I notice the the low-cut bodice and hesitate. Sadly I’m not exactly blessed in that department. But, I suddenly remember something an ex-boyfriend of mine said to me a long time ago. You can wear anything you want and look beautiful.Sweet – even if I despise him now. You know what? I can wear anything.
Even though it’s a size 10, slightly above my normal size, I take it to the fitting room. It’s a dream. A little big on the chest though, as expected.
‘It’s the last one left,’ the sales assistant informs me. Oh well. I resolve that, for the fact that it’s half price, I can afford to have it taken in.
‘I’ll take it!’
I watch as she dutifully packs it up in layer upon layer of tissue paper and gets out a huge yellow bag. With my staff discount, it’s only £84, down from £320. I mean, it would be rude not to, right? It’s an investment piece, I’ll wear it for years as well. Swiping my credit card, I feel the usual rush. I feel giddy, the way I feel when I drink too many Red Bulls on a late night session in the library.
Swinging my yellow bag, I feel like I could take on the world. I go for lunch in Joe and the Juice, then meet a friend for coffee. A couple of hours later, I’m still clutching my bag, but it feels a little less exciting now. The rush is already wearing off. I’m walking past All Saints on my way home when I see it in the window – the world’s most perfect suede jacket. I feel my heart start to pound, my feet slow to a stop. And so it begins, again.
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Temperley Takes to the Skies at London Fashion Week

By Nina Webb
This season Alice Temperley transformed her models into modern-day Amelia Earharts, presenting her signature dresses juxtaposed with sharp, military tailoring.
The Seymour Leisure Centre might not have been a typical setting for a fashion show based on the Royal Air Force, but Alice Temperley made it charming.
Temperley, a blogger and celebrity favourite, who also counts the Duchess of Cambridge amongst fans, has just entered her 18thyear of business. Her name has since become synonymous with pretty dresses with skilled, luxurious finishes, along with hand-worked embellishment across her ready-to-wear, couture and bridal lines.
Alice’s signature high-quality embellishments and famously vibrant prints were given a sharp edge with military tailoring for 2018. An unusual choice opened the show: a khaki boiler suit. ‘She Who Dares Wins’ read the embroidered detailing on the front, a feminist adaptation of the British Air Force Motto. Oversized aviator jackets and sharp black belts transformed the otherwise delicately dressed models into empowered aviatrixes. The unexpected contrast between sequinned mesh dresses and boxy khaki jackets defied the expectations of the audience, just like the aviatrixes who defied conventions in the early 20thcentury.
Knitwear was adorned with strong, ribbon-like lines evoking a multi-coloured runway, while Temperley’s traditional graphic stitch embroidery reflected drawings of early flying machines and parachute strings. Studded biker boots, created in partnership with Spanish shoemaker Pedro Garcia, had a makeover in delicate satin materials.
However, Temperley’s fondness for prints was far from forgotten. Dreamy cloud designs and orange and blue ribbon-prints evoked a kind of graphic Surrealism. The colour palette ranged from ivy greens to silver greys, peppered with sienna and soft pink. Eveningwear took its inspiration from old Hollywood with floor-skimming gowns, as did hair and makeup, with soft waves and golden brown eyeshadow. A liquid metal jumpsuit resembled the metallic sheen of airplanes; while the black star print throughout implied a starry night sky. Those looking for an evening gown during awards season were spoilt for choice: from bias cut dresses with thigh-high slits to sheer nude chiffons.
‘It Girl’ Arizona Muse closed the show, radiant in a gold sequinned gown and matching jacket. Post-show, Alice explained that her collection was about defiance in the midst of political and social turmoil. She said, it’s about ‘being positive, mixing masculine and feminine, mixing colours, being very optimistic in a very scary, grey world.’ If there’s anything we could all use right now, it’s a little optimism.
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Sun Mu Lee: Contrasting Worlds

Menswear designer Sun Mu Lee speaks to Nina Webb about how his Korean upbringing influenced his contrasting design aesthetics, leading him to focus on the polar opposite ideas of freedom and restraint.
Sun Mu Lee doesn’t look like he wants to be interrupted. The 28-year-old Graduate Fashion Diploma student from South Korea is frantically pinning sheets of calico together in the huge studio at Central Saint Martins.
His upbringing was mixed, and made him look at life as a series of opposing ideas. Menswear designer Lee is fascinated by juxtaposition, in his work and in life generally: ‘I always think about contrasts… [especially] freedom and restraint’.
He loved dancing back home in Korea, learning that ‘dance can express freedom. When I’m stressed, I just go to the club.’ Still, he faced limitations on his freedom as he grew up with a strict father, who told him to study rather than go clubbing. The struggle between different ideas is evident in his work: ‘If I want to dance, I like to feel comfortable and active, but restraint is making something follow the rules… so I try to mix these two things.’
Lee studied for a BA in Fashion and worked as a designer for South Korean brand The Handsome. It’s early days for his current project at Central Saint Martins, but he shows me the beginnings of a jacket he’s working on. His piece is still in calico, but the ‘restraints’ from his own life he wanted to express are already evident in two contrasting black straps of fabric that have been sown tightly in, like binding. It looks almost like armour. The base colour will be black, but ‘on the other part, I’ll make something more shiny [to put the wearer into] more of a club mood’.
Since moving to the UK, Lee’s also embraced a degree of experimentation in his work. Lee picks difficult materials to work with, wanting to create a challenge for himself technically, like ‘PVC or iron or wood’. He gets out another piece from his most recent collection, a patchwork jacket made from cotton and painted latex. One side is made up of layers of hand-woven bright, varied fabrics, representing his new-found creative freedom. ‘I love to use rainbow colours,’ Lee explains. ‘Sometimes, I’ll make whole garments using neon.’ The other side is made up of ropes, dip-dyed varying shades of red, representing the binding traditional in ancient East Asian culture and the restrictions he felt as a child.
Since being in the UK, he’s loosened gender boundaries within his work. In the words of David Kappo (Graduate Diploma course leader), ‘he’s completely embraced the creative process… he’s pushing himself, he’s pushing the boundaries of menswear’ in a way he wouldn’t have back home. Lee explained: ‘when I made garments before I came here, I only thought about making trousers, and shirts and jackets. But then David told me “you can make your own silhouette!”’ For his most recent project, he attempted a petticoat made from wood. ‘I had to make tunnels and really get into the wood, [it was difficult to] make the right form.’
The juxtaposition within Lee’s work is also evident in him personally when we uncover his unlikely inspiration: Ryan Gosling in The Notebook. ‘I really like Ryan Gosling’s acting skills and his mood. His mood always has a bit of sadness, in his voice and in his face… Happy but sad. I’m really similar to him.’ He laughs, apologises that his inspiration isn’t very ‘fashion’. ‘I’m a really active person and I really like to dance, but when I go to my room I’m a bit timid, I often feel the sadness in my room. Outside I’m funny, but inside I’m serious.’
Apparently, Lee’s ideal customer is himself. ‘I just want to make my own garments!’ he says, half-joking. ‘No, I always think my customer is younger, interested in street style. Someone who wants to buy street wear but doesn’t want to buy something cheap, but Gucci is a little bit expensive for them.’ And he wants those who wear his clothes to feel as happy as he does when he makes them. Lee hopes that his designs will inspire people, like him, ‘to go out into the street and dance’.