Friday, February 4, 2011

Dion Lee

My friend, The Gazelle, went on a 6 month holiday to Australia and came back two and half years later (with a tall drink of water who sounds a lot like Crocodile Dundee, btw).  There must be something in the air down there.  Time moves slower, skies are bluer, and everyone is tanned and happy.

You may be able to tell I've never actually been where women glow and men plunder. 
My concept of Australian culture has been formed largely through too much coverage of the Sydney Olympics and too many eBay orders from the likes of Alice McCall, Karen Walker, and Sass & Bide.  The fashion scene down there bolsters my generalization - they wear pastel playsuits and slinky minidresses... in broad daylight... without a scoatch of irony.  There are maybe two weeks out of the year that I feel beachy-cool enough to wear my Lover dress out of the house.  And even then, I'm double-bagging with the Spanx.

The Aussie girls look fun and fearless, reaping cuter designer collaborations than the comparable American ranges available at Kohl's and Target.  Stella McCartney has done two (2007 and 2010) Australian Target lines.  Both were fresh, without being overly trendy, and thus highly coveted:

USA-Target's most recent collab was with William Rast, the barely legitimate label founded by Justin Timberlake.  The company makes jeans, hoodies, and T-shirts but was somehow still able to water their 'designs' down for Target consumers.  It's hard to fault ol' JT, though.  Even the fabulousity of my beloved Zac Posen didn't translate so well into poly-rayon blends and mass production.  Maybe there's a reason that these designers' target demographic isn't, well, Target.

The conclusion I draw: designer-conceptualized minidresses and casual separates fit snugly into the Australian aesthetic. In the States, not so much.

Dion Lee and one of his designs.

Enter Dion Lee, who won the 2010 L'oreal prize at the Melbourne Fashion Festival.  He does a slightly more grown-up take on the typical short/bright/tight Aussie fare.  The look is still spirited and funky, but in a far more wearable way.

His pieces capture the nonchalance typical of Australian design, but contrast that ease with severe shapes and a graphic palette of black, white, and robin's egg blue.  His most outstanding items look carved, sculpted:

I have been stalking this cut out blazer online for months, but it's hard to find and retails between $350-$600.
Some day, my pretty.

The closest Australia has come to a pond-hopping designer is probably Collette Dinnigan.  Perhaps Lee is poised to make the leap.  So far his collections are small in scope, but extremely well-done.  I'm betting they're marketable too.  

Where to buy Dion Lee?  Even Net-a-porter carries only a few pieces.
An airline ticket to Australia is a $2000 touch, so I think it's about time to start flying some of Lee's
sharp cut out jackets and knife-pleated dresses up here.

leather shorts, Rorschach tee, sheer-back blazer all Dion Lee

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