Dana Lee Interview
Going beyond the conventions of typical fashion, Dana Lee has a unique vision for "authentic beauty" that she has built her label on and thrived from in recent years. Lee's journey began in Vancouver and has seen her cut samples and work on Christmas Day and internships in London and Helsinki, but these are all valuable lessons that all paid off for the now New York based designer. So often in the past menswear has complimented womenswear but that is not how Lee sees it, one of a new generation of women menswear designers changing the way us men dress. One of her first inspirations was in the mid 90's "seeing a photo of Shalom Harlow wearing olive drab long johns under a pair of rolled up jeans." A healthy obsession for mens thermals was formed and her vision progressed with men's uniforms which is the cornerstone for her work we know today. Although before Lee launched her own label there was even time for another project, the A-Z Collection, an idea created to celebrate everyday things."The soul or feel of a garment is something that is really important" to Dana Lee, and I believe this is witnessed in her attention to craftsmanship and detail. I caught up with Dana to find out more about the designer as well as get a preview of the Fall/Winter 2012 Collection.
James Oliver: Can you explain why you wanted to become a designer?
Dana Lee: A desire for authentic beautiful basic things.
JO: How did you get your break and how were you able to start your own label?
DL: I was able to start my own label initially with help from family and support from a local factory that I had worked at while in school. My first break was an order from Opening Ceremony during the debut of my former brand, A-Z collection. Most brands were showing asymmetrical blacks and tailored items at the time. I was showing colour, symmetry and raincoats.
JO: What are the core ethos and concept of the label?
DL: Making clothes that are be both authentic and essential. Never compromising one for the other.
JO: How has the label evolved and grown since the beginning?
DL: In the beginning, It took a few seasons to iron out some kinks and find a rhythm. I'd say the label has grown and evolved mainly in the sense that product range and quality is closer to the label's intention.
JO: You often refer to traditional passages of fashion, how do you maintain a fresh approach to make each collection stand out from season to season?
DL: Usually through customized colour, customized texture and customized pattern. I really believe in the power and fine-tuning of these sensory elements and the interest that these elements can bring to a garment or overall ensemble. On average, about 80% of the fabrics in my collection are somehow customized or exclusive, and will not be found elsewhere of the market.
JO: Do you think the effect the internet has had on your work, label and fashion in general are positive or negative or both?
DL: It can be frustrating not controlling the flow or timing of information (which is an art & job in itself) but overall I think the internet has been positive and essential. The look books get a lot of circulation which I'm happy about because I feel they really portray the soul of the brand and they are something that I put a lot of care into production designing.
JO: What are your ambitions for your label in the future, both short and long term?
DL: To keep the label growing consistently in the same direction. Every once in a while a tempting opportunity or idea comes along, but I try to remind myself that it's better to focus on quality over quantity.
JO: Finally, words to live by?
DL: If I ever have kids, I will make sure to tell them to never underestimate the importance of sleep. Looking back on the times when my sleep was compromised, I made some pretty strange decisions!
Photographer - Images from Dana Lee F/W 2012