Sydney-based Dion Lee may show in New York, but he still prefers to look homeward for inspiration. This season, his key reference was the Australian artist Jeffrey Smart, known for, as Lee described them today, his “industrial roadside landscapes.” What appealed to Lee about Smart’s work, he went on to say, was the way it conjured “a dark feeling through a bright palette”—and the clothes Lee showed this morning pulled off the same trick, on the whole.
In their reflective jackets and dresses trussed in seat belt-like straps or a weighty moto chain, Lee’s girls came off like a particularly glam, postapocalyptic biker gang. You wondered how they’d manage to straddle a bike in one of Lee’s signature body-con pencil dresses, though, or whether they’d get windburn on all the skin winking through the dresses’ cutouts. You also spared a concern for the possibility that one of the collection’s many dangling straps could get caught in a tire or the gears. Silly thoughts, perhaps, but they get at something problematic in Lee’s oeuvre, which is his tendency to let his brilliant talent for engineering patterns move him in the direction of overcomplicated clothes. He should put that talent to work on streamlining. The most pared-back looks were the ones that struck a chord today: the show-opening strapless dress, sculpted out of silver mesh; a tunic in a brash painted print; a halter top trimmed in that heavy chain, worn over a pair of fluid black pants.
Lee’s track-style jackets hit a refreshingly realistic, streetwise note, and the black lace threaded with iridescent plastic yarn was seriously cool, and probably underutilized. Lee has a gift for weird fabrics alongside his gift for engineering patterns, but too frequently they cancel each other out—once again, a good deal of simplification seemed in order. As it is, Lee is either working too hard or not hard enough.