Designer Six Lee is hungry for more success
Fine and dandy Designer Six Lee has established himself in Asia and Europe, but there's more to come, writes Pavan Shamsdami
IT'S JUST TWO years since Hong Kong-born Six Lee launched his eponymous fashion label, but his clothes are already stocked in stores across Europe and Southeast Asia, as well as Hong Kong's luxury fashion retailer, Joyce.
But his small, HK$5,000-a-month studio on the edge of Fo Tan is hardly representative of the 30-year-old menswear designer's growing success. In fact, it's a humbling reminder of how much work he still has ahead.
He recently launched his autumn-winter 2013 collection with a catwalk show at the W Hotel Hong Kong, followed by an art installation at Kee Club for Pink Season.
Lee has also just wrapped up his spring-summer 2014 collection.
His menswear blends classic British tailoring with whatever is influencing his tastes at the time.
For his in-store autumn-winter line, it was a number of light installation artists, which eventually translated into dandy-like suits that play with illusions through mixed checks and patterns.
"It's like a puzzle," he says of the collection. "I'm aiming at professionals, such as lawyers and accountants. People who have to wear a suit to work every day - they're boring, and they need to wear something more fun. I want them to break free."
Growing up in Hong Kong, "breaking free" was high on Lee's agenda - away from the staid and interchangeable fashion chains that influenced a large part of the city, and towards the unique Japanese designs that sparked his interest in becoming a designer.
"You'd see a lot of Hongkongers wearing the same stuff, they'd just follow trends," he says.
"Because Japan was so close to Hong Kong, I became interested in that world. Japanese people have a very individualistic style, they have a sense of identity and dress the way they want, without caring what people think."
He studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts fashion school in Antwerp, before moving to London to work on menswear alongside the late Alexander McQueen.
Both experiences refined his ideas about articulating personal identity through fashion. "Belgian designers mainly focus on themselves; they have a lot of space to think, and they want to put their own individuality through their work," he says.
"My time at McQueen taught me a lot about creative thinking - things you don't learn in school, like making a cohesive, considerate collection that's also commercial and sellable. I've translated this into my own collections."
Lee was drawn back to Hong Kong - on a practical level, because the factories in China made it cheaper to start his own label - but also because menswear was changing in the city.
"I never thought I'd move back, but men here are starting to want to dress better. In Europe, they only really dress in black, but in Asia there are a lot more colours," he says.
"It's growing, but slowly, because it takes time for men to accept new things. In that sense, menswear can be challenging, because there are so many rules: you really only have shirts, jackets and trousers, and the trick is making them look fresh."
For his upcoming spring-summer 2014 collection, set to hit stores in January, Lee was inspired by the 2012 film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower - specifically, the line "we accept the love we think we deserve". The clothes are classical with a futuristic bent, using large weapon symbols on materials that are plastic-like, or waterproof.