It’s a week ahead of MBFWA and there’s a quiet calm in the Lee Mathews studio. Lee and stylist Brana Wolf watch on in concentration, examining every fold, stitch and silhouette as models stride down a mock runway, looking for any detail untoward to further refine, reexamine or reevaluate. The two creatives are in constant discussion as designs flow between the romantic and more minimalist, noting what works, what doesn’t work, and how to further push and elevate the collection to a new realm. We take a moment with the designer to discuss the drive, the story and the inspiration behind Resort ’19 before the MBFWA storm arrives and surely sweeps us off our feet.
Tell us about the collection…
Our Resort ’19 collection works around a foundation of cream and neutral linens and cottons punctuated with pops of silk colours. We worked with natural textiles and fabrics from a range of mills, paying close attention to those which implement new technologies into waste reduction. Silhouettes are fluid and reflect the relaxed Australian sensibility, there are lots of floor sweeping dresses in silk georgettes, and a focus on blooming shell shaped sleeves. The shapes flow between the romantic and more minimalist.
What inspired the collection?
Initial inspiration for our Resort ’19 collection came from the iconic American architects Frank Lloyd-Wright and Eames, as well as minimalist artist Donald Judd. Last year I visited Marfa in Texas, and the work from Donald Judd really stayed with me. It was not only for his striking work, but also the belief that design should work in harmony with humanity and the environment.
What are some of the artisanal details of the collection…
We very much focused on working with mills that are at the forefront of what they do… Our new season trench coat is cut from a coated linen cotton that comes from a mill in Belgium established in 1858 that combines high-tech manufacturing with creative and artisanal techniques. Our coloured cotton poplins are sourced from a mill in Spain that has both GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) and Oeko-Tex certifications that demonstrate traceability, transparency, and socially responsible textile production.
Our debut swimwear capsule is made in Sydney out of a fabric called Econyl, which is a nylon made in Italy from processed waste found in the oceans, industrial plastic from landfills and carpet flooring. Econyl can also be recycled infinitely.
Tell us about your collaborations with Mud Australia…
In anticipation of a larger project we are working on together, we had Mud Australia design large porcelain bag charms in our collection colours, which we attached to each show gift bag, which was a netted market bag. We absolutely love Mud and everything Shelley Simpson creates, so felt it was such a special gift for all our show guests.
How do you approach designing a new range? What is your process?
I start with a concept or recent experience, like my trip to Marfa and seeing Donald Judd’s work. I’ll then build on this world and feeling with a mood board – who is the woman in this world. Also for me, sourcing textiles gives a lot of inspiration – and often I can design this way around, a sample piece of linen can inspire an entire trenchcoat.
Where around the world are your fabrics sourced from and pieces made?
Above we spoke of the fantastic mills we’re working with. Just as important are the hands and people who make the finished product. In terms of garment manufacturing we have decided to bring back a larger part of local manufacturing, to support the local industry and for greater flexibility around timeframes. We aim to make sure each product category is made with the right set of hands. Simple silk pieces are made locally, however intricate styles that require trained hands and specialised equipment are made in China. We have a fantastic shirting maker in Sydney, and another factory who is great with heavy weight fabrics and detailed topstitching. Our knitwear is made in China, using Australian wool. As the company grows and the product categories expand we are always looking to work with new specialised manufacturers and give them designs that they will excel in producing.
What’s next for Lee Mathews?
We’re opening a new store in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane and also Double Bay, Sydney in the next few months which we are very excited about, especially as our new season collection begins to drop in store. I’m off to Paris and London for Resort market, where I will hope to pick up new ideas and inspiration for our next collection.
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