Made in Hong Kong: Menswear designer Six Lee

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He's got a name that's as-easy-as-one-two-three to remember, and designer Six Lee certainly has an eye for creating memorable and alluring menswear pieces as well, with a focus on precise tailoring and his own unique take on the style of the Industrial Revolution. In his latest spring/summer 2013 collection you see lots of tailored shorts, cropped jackets, mixed pattern blazers and a pretty pallet of pastels. The looks are cohesive, elegant and endearing – think a modern-day Sherlock Holmes as an electro pop fan.

The 29-year old designer certainly isn't afraid of adding a bit of flamboyant flair to the world of men's fashion, which is too often far less daring than its female counterpart. And Lee is one of the few menswear-only designers in Hong Kong who is actually willing to change that perception.

Lee graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium in 2009 before he moved to London to work for Alexander McQueen on his final collection, before he died. After he had honed his skills with McQueen, Lee returned to Hong Kong to start his own label. His designs can now be found in notable boutiques around the world including Good Collect in Taipei, Ra Corderie in Paris and, of course, our local Joyce Boutiques – a major feat for a local label. Time Out sits with Lee to talk about the world of menswear, his brief stint as a teacher and his inspiration behind his upcoming autumn/winter 2013 collection.

Hey Six! So tell us what it was like to work at Alexander McQueen?
It was really fun in a way… but it was also really tough because you are in charge of the whole project from the start of researching to the show. I had to follow through on the whole process. I didn't have to draw anything. It was more about tweaking previous designs.

Are there any pieces in your collection inspired by McQueen? His autumn/winter 2010 collection with the prints – the collection just before he died.

Why did you decide to come back to Hong Kong?
Initially it was family and financial issues that made me feel I had to come back. But come to think of it, if I didn't come back, I would never have started my collection, because it's much easier to do so in Hong Kong than in Europe. The factories are here and prices are cheaper.

What are the challenges of designing exclusively menswear?
There are lots of rules for menswear – the challenge is making the pieces more innovative. That's the reason why I chose menswear – because I want to do something that no-one's ever seen before. It's more fun and actually there's less competition.

How would you describe your style and aesthetic?
I think it's innocent and childish mixed with elegant and romantic.

And what do you think defines your design style?
I concentrate a lot on tailoring and well-fitting pieces. I try to use the traditional two-button jackets or three-button blazers, but usually with a contemporary twist. High-waist pants and cropped jackets are kind of my signature style as well.

What do you think of modern-day menswear?
London's men's fashion is a lot of fun, but sometimes not very wearable. Paris has a darker tone as it's always black and white and New York is a bit too commercial.

How about Hong Kong?
There's a lack of a distinct style because it's more trend-based rather than the individual. I feel people showed more expression in what they wore before I left Hong Kong. It might be because industry in Hong Kong has changed and people are holding more corporate jobs and are less willing to try out-of-the-box fashion.

What kind of man are you designing for?
My stereotypical male would be skinny, tall with broad shoulders – kind of modelesque [laughs]. Actually in Belgium, that is a very typical body type.

I heard you dabble in teaching?
I taught a BA in fashion design, but I stopped last summer. I found the students studied fashion design, not because they really like creating fashion, but because they like buying clothes.

So lack of creativity is the cause of the problem?
The students are taught a lot of techniques in the education system, so they are equipped to work for someone but not to create for someone. They can use a computer programme or a sewing machine but can't create anything.

What inspired you for your upcoming Fall/Winter 2013 collection?
I researched a lot of light installation artists who used light to create interesting effects. I used those impressions to create prints and, for my 18th century feel, I drew inspiration from religious figures, such as priests and the Pope. It was traditional with a futuristic twist.

What is your next big goal?
I want to show in Paris Fashion Week for autumn/winter 2014.

Interview by Arthur Tam

Six Lee sixlee.be

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