Top image: Ed Lee SS16. Photo Greta Ilieva
Bringing together 90s grunge, haute couture nuances and a strong sense of bohemia, emerging London designer Ed Lee works to destabilise menswear’s traditional gender-led framework.
His journey began at Central Saint Martins, when his Romantic-influenced graduate collection was met with watch-this-space positivity and justified buzz. From there it on to Paris to work inside Maison Margiela’s atelier and then with Christelle Kocher, designer at Bottega Veneta and artistic director of Maison Lemarié for Chanel.
Today Lee is based in London at the helm of his eponymous menswear line. Here he tells us about his painterly SS16 collection and what it’s like to rise up as a designer here now.
Zak Maoui: So can you tell me a bit about the inspiration behind your SS16 collection?
Ed Lee: I was influenced by Mariano Fortuny and Kevin Francis Gray. I am a big fan of Fortuny’s work and a lot of bold and rich hues can be seen in this collection as such. I hope the light airy fluidity that I found in the work of Fortuny and Gray come across also.
ZM: The fabrication and textures are beautiful, I love the printed trousers and coat…
EL: Thank you! There’s a lot of soft, fluid draping using various kinds of silk like satin, georgette and pongee. It moves away a bit from the tailoring vibe of previous seasons. All the strong, luscious colours as I mentioned are inspired by Fortuny. The print you mentioned was actually a left over on roll I found a while ago and surprisingly it just fit the colour story so well!
ZM: Can you tell me about the painterly prints?
EL: I met this very talented girl in the beginning of SS16. Her name is Mowa and she is doing her BA at Central Saint Martins. We had very similar taste in colours and her prints are just so beautiful therefore I invited her to hand paint some pieces for me, and the result is just amazing.
Ed Lee SS16. Photo Greta Ilieva
Ed Lee SS16. Photo Greta Ilieva
ZM: In your experience, how do you stand out in the London menswear landscape?
EL: The industry in London is so competitive and the pace is extremely fast. I have been trying to slow down my design process and take time to really look into things that people might have over looked in the past, then reinterpret them in a more contemporary manner. Design is an accumulative process and the past, for instance how the textiles and shapes have evolved according to the cultural shift in society, is very important to me in order to create what I find fresh now. Every season it is kind of like doing a patchwork of the past and present, not in a nostalgic way but to deliver a new perspective. I hope people can find traces of history, especially the luxurious era of couture, in my work.
ZM: Your designs tend to have a genderless feeling, do you see a genderless future for fashion?
EL: It is never my intention to break any gender boundary. I really appreciate the heritage of proper menswear and I think it will still remain as important as ever in the future of fashion as in a modern society, we still all at some point need to dress according to occasion and that’s exactly what makes fashion become a very powerful language itself. I want to present things solely based on their own beauty and forget about their functionality for a bit. In the future when I start expanding, that part will eventually kick in for sure. For now, I do not want to impose a specific dressing manner and I would leave that to those who pick to wear my stuff. I am sure I will be equally as excited when I see someone wear my silk shirt with a pair of tuxedo trousers and or a skirt.
ZM: Has it been difficult breaking into the fashion industry?
EL: It is very difficult but I am lucky that I have an amazing crew that help me so much. A lot of the pieces we do are made out of fabrics that I have been collecting for years so they cannot really be reproduced. But we are very happy to keep working in a relatively small scale and everything is made to order so we are able to keep up the exclusivity of every piece we deliver.
All images Ed Lee SS16. Additional image credits: Fashion Harry Lambert, model Jonas @ Tomorrow is Another Day