Dion Lee Vein sleeveless dress

Since establishing his label in 2009, Sydney-based fashion designer Dion Lee has pioneered a distinctive aesthetic based on material exploration and innovative tailoring. Technically accomplished and cerebral, his collections to date have utilised light-reflective knitwear, three-dimensional printing, sliced and folded leathers and ombré-dyed and needle-felted wools. Lee’s glamorous designs illustrate an artful balance between structure, drape and form, and incorporate ambitious and experimental fabric treatments.

Lee completed studies in Fashion Design at the Sydney Institute of Technology in 2007 and debuted his graduate collection at Australian Fashion Week in 2008. One year later he presented his third collection (spring-summer 2009), off-schedule in an underground car park in Kings Cross, Sydney. This well-received collection foreshadowed the unique design vocabulary that has come to typify Lee’s practice, characterised by futuristic abstractions, sculptural forms and complex pattern-making. Many of the more tailored garments from the collection had their genesis in precise origami-like folds and skilfully executed cut-out panels.

Vein sleeveless dress, 2012, encapsulates the original thinking and technical ingenuity that has defined Lee’s work over the past few seasons. The sleeveless dress, body-conscious in style with a racer-back neckline, is comprised of black stretch knit fabric overlaid with floating strands of thinly sliced high-visibility fabric. The disciplined silhouette shows Lee’s almost architectural approach to tailoring, with black structural panels demarcating the waist, torso and décolletage. Tracing a cool, sexy line across the body, this foundation has been cleverly softened and animated by the judicious application of reflective fringing.

Shown at London Fashion Week 2012 as part of a collection inspired by breathing and ideas of circulation, Vein sleeveless dress clearly articulates the relationship between Lee’s conceptual origins and his final designs. It also reveals the focus on formal material experimentation that continues to underpin his practice. When subjected to strong, direct light in a darkened environment, the dress’s high-visibility strands flare brightly, creating an unexpected and electrifying effect. On the runway, this collection was accompanied by a film Lee made in collaboration with Lorin Askill and the model Ruby Jean Wilson. Titled Sequence Breathing, the hypnotic film showed the dress’s visual metamorphosis under differing light conditions.

Danielle Whitfield, Assistant Curator, Fashion and Textiles, National Gallery of Victoria (in 2014)