There’s an unspoken rule not to show up to a party at its start time. That should’ve been the approach to Dion Lee’s high-octane runway show at an empty loft in downtown Manhattan last night. It started 50 minutes late.
Lee and his clothes are well known in New York’s party circles, and for good reason—the Australian designer has found quite the niche making what is practically luxury rave wear. His fall collection read like the climax of this idea. Lee has an exacting eye for sexiness, his cut is precise and more often than not reveals just enough of his subject’s body. This season’s slinky dresses, barely-there tank tops, mini skirts, and cropped tops flexed this muscle, but not fatigue; Lee seems heedful of the balance between revealing too much and just enough. A full wardrobe rather than simply “going out” staples, the collection was slightly more refined and grown-up, without losing the identity that has made Lee a celebrity and cool-person favorite (Julia Fox and Ice Spice sat front row, as did some other popular influencers and fashionable party folks).
The crux of the collection was Lee’s material exploration of a repeated reptilian motif. Day one of New York Fashion Week was big for animals: Collina Strada dressed her models in photo-realistic fur prints and transformed their faces with whimsical creature prosthetics, Prabal Gurung supersized butterfly wings as prints, and Lee fixated on serpent scale patterns, as “representation of the shedding of skin,” he said backstage. It is not unusual for Lee to find inspiration in nature and merge it with his industrial designs (for spring 2023, he found convergence between monstera leaf patterns and classic motocross lines). He has a flair for materialization, but the laser focus on a single motif this season saw him test this potential to the fullest.
“There is a parallel with identity and always changing and evolving as a person and designer,” he said. “But, really, I think I’m focused on how plants and reptiles shed their skin, and that as a visual in itself.” He translated the concept into rhombus-shaped eyelet belting and surface treatments, wide-gauge knits and mixed-gauge mesh, peeling rubber, distressed ball chain applied over silk georgette dresses (a technical wonder), shaved shearling (a crowd favorite), and Japanese shibori dyeing (a personal favorite). These made a solid pairing with Lee’s party-ready silhouettes.
Elsewhere, he doubled-down on his outerwear offering with potent shearling styles, puffer jackets cut in corset-like shapes, and translucent inflatable jackets, reducing his tailoring to a handful of sharp-edged wide-shouldered jackets. Denim came distressed, a technique he also explored with ripped hosiery dresses and tops that were the beginning of an interesting idea, particularly in menswear, but one that could have used refinement. One compelling proposal Lee could explore further is his application of boning in horizontal stacks to create drape and structure.
Once the show ended, the crowd seemed eager to move on to the designer’s after party, which featured rapper Azaelia Banks. The show might have taken much longer than expected to start, but usually so does a good party.