Steeped with themes of romanticism to suits reminiscent of Bowie’s Thin White Duke, Ed Lee’s work combines the use of motif with drapery and a colour palette of earthy tones, ballasted with a river of red flowing through. Biblical? Perhaps not, yet this mixture of effeminate and powerful menswear is something to be marvelled at.
Just as brides carry charms for good luck, Ed whisked up his own mascots in the form of ‘something sparkly, something colourful, something soft and something crafty’, (replacing the dower ‘something borrowed, something blue’: about as exciting as old men’s’ underwear). With these guidelines inserted into his designs at the start of his project, Ed Lee was on the brink of promise even in the early stages of creation.
Challenging the aesthetics of menswear has been worked and reworked a hundred times over, without reward. However, it seems that Ed’s success is the prize for working hard, interning and playing nice. After working in Margiela’s atelier in Paris, he quickly learnt to break down the wall of isolation that the language barrier built up. Working straight into 3D work, patterns were dissolved into the ether, and Ed developed the agile style that would go on to influence his final collection. The runway was slicked with billowing skirts enveloping the long dresses; a silhouette reminiscent of Medieval Renaissance, integrated with surface decoration in the style of the Arts and Crafts movement. With such historical references, Ed Lee still manages to create a collection dripping with insurgent ideas; the reputation of CSM’s quest for all things “new” remains intact.
“People get drawn to the designer’s aesthetic when they are looking for internships. While doing it, they should always stay positive and think of the possible achievements,” Ed says. Dead ends or brighter outlooks – internships elevated Ed’s expectations of the industry. Bridging the lines from 90s heroin chic to Ziggy Stardust, Ed Lee’s engineered pieces shine through against more bohemian textiles. They show influences from his time at Margiela, which are distinct, yet personal. “It was very intense but that made me a very independent person, when it comes to working.” he says.
Back in London, anchored by our capital (it must be all that coke in the Thames water, or the artisan hangover from Paris), Lee says he still feels ‘safe and constantly inspired’ eight years on, adding that ‘if it comes to difficult decision making, I always ask my best friend for opinion’. Fashion savvy friends are a must for imminent success.
More of a Stella than Galliano, the young designer professes his work as ‘soft and sleek’. Rejecting the avant-garde by replicating ‘vintage fabrics and modernising it by putting in a more contemporary silhouette’. Strangely enough, with feminine silhouettes like the 90’s halter dress and collaged boob tubes, masculinity oozes through the designs as the contours of the male model’s body shine through – reminding us that however manicured the wearer, this is a menswear show after all.
‘I don’t really have big concepts behind my work…I like clothes that are rich in textures; therefore textiles and fabrication are very important to me’. Ed tells us that his influences emerged from haute couture of the 1920s, focusing on textiles and experimental textures before developing the structure. Designing almost in the reverse, meant that surface decoration was clearly integrated into his final collection rather than ‘plopped on’.
A succession of three to four years at CSM in prep for riotous release into the industry follows a loose regime of practical and design skills. “It is great if someone can produce beautiful sketchbooks but I don’t think it is essential’, Ed says, noting that over-designed pages never mask a bad concept.
Newly graduated, clutching the most expensive piece of paper he will ever own, Ed Lee is brimming with advice for CSM hopefuls who must ‘stay true to their own aesthetic, concentrate, and manage their time well’. Evidently calming the nerves of trembling first years, making the road to graduation seems within reach. It pays off to be kind as well as astute.