Sydney-based designer Dion Lee kicked off his first ever New York show with a kind of art performance: The room darkened, and a hypnotic series of projections were screened onto the tall white boxes at the top of the catwalk. Finally, all the light in the room narrowed itself to one rectangle, and the girl in the first look stepped into it. This was all very much a throat-clearing gesture: Lee, the most admired and original designer to have come out of Australia, was giving a little fanfare by way of introduction to New York. Much of the show felt like an extension of that, as Lee revisited many of the ideas and techniques that have made his name over the past few years.
For those unfamiliar with Lee's work, his 3-D pattern making, textile innovation, and rigorous, futuristic take on body-con undoubtedly came off as bracingly new. Showgoers acquainted with the designer's oeuvre, meanwhile, would likely feel that this collection was more about refinement than progression. That's not a criticism: Lee has advanced a lot of ideas recently, so it was smart of him to seize this opportunity to take stock. And as a result of that, all the clothes here had the look of clothes—wearable stuff, or, at any rate, wearable for the girl prepared to go out in a super-bare bustier top made entirely from molded panels of leather cord. Lee does not design for the shrinking violet. One new idea he did introduce here, though, was a bit more circumspect. It turned out that the tiered, column-shaped dress in black and cobalt was made from the material used to face neoprene, and Lee had sculpted the pleats into the dress by bonding the fabric in different ways. That look wasn't the flashiest on the runway, but it did assert a new direction for Lee, one in which he applies his considerable technical imagination to the task of designing for women who aren't Amazons.
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