Out of My Closet: Patrick Lee

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2012, 4:01pm

We expected Patrick Lee, general manager of Paul Smith in Hong Kong, to live in his suits like a second skin. But he loves his knits just as much. "These Lee Kung Man knits are more important than my suit jackets," he says.

He's wearing the HK$100 or so knitwear underneath his made-to-match suit jacket when we meet.

"These knits are all made in Hong Kong, so they are part of our collective memory, and part of my identity," Lee says.

Lee thinks our style should reflect who we are. "You shouldn't judge a book by its cover. But even so, your outfit communicates to others who you are. My age, my friends and my lifestyle all play a part in the way I dress," he says.

Lee's collection of suits includes some houndstooth-printed three-pieces by Paul Smith, and cashmere silk Brionis with silver buttons.

There are also some thickened silk Caruso jackets and a classic Lanvin jacket with a modern twist.

"For guys, a fitted suit is as important as a good pair of heels is for girls," Lee says. "A good suit enhances your silhouette and improves how you hold yourself."

Lee points to a grey wool jacket from Paul Smith with tone-on-tone checks, and a bright floral print lining. "It's something I can wear to a day-long meeting and still feel good about myself. The humorous prints inside really cheer me up.

"But the cut is flattering, so my business partners will feel I'm dressed respectfully," he adds.

He's also fond of his double-breasted tailored jackets.

"Prince Charles may not be on the list of the hottest men on the planet, but really I admire the way he wears his suits. He wears his double-breasted jackets well, and is obviously not a slave to his clothing," Lee explains.

Lee has been in the fashion industry for a decade. He says it has taught him to appreciate the craftsmanship behind his clothing.

"Take this Rake jacket, for example. The button holes were stitched into the fabric before it was made into a suit, so the holes are very sturdy. You won't notice things like that, unless you really pay attention to the details."

His accessories are all classics, such as the Bill Amberg messenger bag and the Smythson clutch with four different coloured zips. He has a Céline messenger with a pocket to hold a newspaper, and a customised umbrella from The Armoury.

Speaking of details, Lee has worked out different ways to accessorise when wearing suits.

"There is a golden rule in tailoring about how long the sleeves should be. But it has to work for you as well. It has to fit the occasion and your figure, and the suit has to have the right proportions," he says.

"I wear a lot of jackets and pants that are cropped at the sleeve and the ankle. When I accessorise, I wear bracelets, as well as rings on my pinky finger. When you attract attention with button details, you also draw attention to your wrist and fingers."

Lee's collection includes a ring made from an antique coin that was hand-crafted in Italy. He has gold rings from Jared, Georg Jensen and David Yurman. He wears Hermès Kelly watches with black alligator skin straps, and has a vintage Rolex. His closet is full of dress shoes from John Lobb, G.H. Bass, and Alden.

But the soles are hardly worn. "Take this pair of Sergio Rossi shoes. I probably wore them twice. And I probably only ever wore this pair of John Lobbs to a lunch," he says.

He also has an impressive collection of fabric slip-ons. He began collecting them six years ago.

One of his favourites is a burgundy velvet pair from Sergio Rossi which have a silver owl embroidered on them.

Lee treasures the contents of his wardrobe as if they were living creatures. "You can't wear the same shoes every day. After you wear a pair, you should let them rest for 24 hours. You need to let them breathe, like a bottle of wine," he says.

"It's the same for suits. You shouldn't wear them all the time, and you need to use a natural hair brush to get the dirt off. Veteran tailors taught me that you shouldn't fully wash them."

Lee has a special method to clean his suits: "I love hotpot, and I can easily shower off the odour. To get the smell out of the suits, I hang them in the bathroom afterwards, and let the hot air steam them overnight. You should treat suits as well as you treat yourself."