Open Discussion: Six Lee
HOMEHIGHLIGHT ▸ Open Discussion: Six Lee

 Six Lee is probably one of Hong Kong’s most talented menswear designers, proven by his win at last year’s Asia regional finals for the International Woolmark Prize in Seoul. Though he didn’t win the ultimate prize at the recent global finals in Florence, Lee displayed a strong, cohesive, elegant collection titled ‘Nomadic Gentleman’ that innovatively incorporated different types of wool. The collection, inspired by a combination of 1950s gentleman’s undergarment, Kenyan prints and modern suit tailoring, consisted of light, luxurious, textured tank tops and underwear in light blue and off-white, checker print turtlenecks and overcoats in electric blue and grey check suits with architectural detailing. There was a soft, romantic and youthful interpretation of contemporary menswear highlighted by the clever use of layering. “I just wanted to show the judges what I’ve always been about, what I stand for,” said Lee. “I don’t design according to trends. I just want to make menswear fun, young and elegant.”

  Lee received positive feedback from the couple dozen judges that included respected names like Miroslava Duma, Phillip Lim, Livia Firth, Emanuele Farneti and Sarah Mower. ‘Phillip Lim was very surprised that the suits were made in Hong Kong and the knits in China because of the quality,’ said Lee. “Honestly, these days manufacturers in China are just as good as they are in Europe and produce at lower cost. Hong Kong designers should take advantage of that.”

    Recently, upon his return to Hong Kong, Lee was kind enough to host a session and share his experiences with a group of budding fashion designers at The Woolmark Company’s Wool Resource Centre in Kwun Tung. ‘I realised,’ he said slowly as if a great epiphany dawned on him. “Asia is way more open-minded when it comes to fashion. Some of the European judges thought my collection wasn't commercial enough because I didn’t utilise black… ”

   Next, he cited his educational background at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Belgium as an essential foundation for his growth as a designer. ‘I remember that for one course, we were forced to take fashion inspiration from different ancient civilizations like the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians to create something,’ says Lee. ‘At the time, I thought it was a waste of time, but it was actually good practice on how to translate inspiration into your actual work, your work.’

  One design student in the audience asked: “Like you, I also incorporate a lot of men’s tailoring into my collection, but I find it difficult to communicate modern design aesthetics to some of the old Shanghainese tailors. How do you do it?”

  Lee's response: "I cut out my own patterns, so the tailors know exactly what I want." It's imperative that young Hong Kong designers understand the fundamentals when it comes to fit and construction. ‘It's also important for young designers to gain working experience before starting their own brand,' says Lee. "Often, you see promising designers get popular quickly, but all of a sudden they don't know how to sustain their business."

    Toward the end of the discussion, Lee announced that he'd be moving to Shanghai for the phase of his career. "For my next project, I want to create an exchange platform between designers in London and Shanghai where I can lead them through the process of production, creating samples, getting into showrooms and the right retail spaces in their respective cities.” He continues: “As a creative, I think it's important to have that guidance."  

    The session came to a close and Lee stayed to answer any questions from the students and designers in attendance and was even willing to share contacts with them. All emerging talent is in need of a helping hand, and Lee was more than willing to hold his out.

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