Aussie designer Dion Lee has been making waves Down Under since he founded his eponymous label in 2009. After some time in London, he moved his show to NYC, and last September, he finally hopped the pond to make the Big Apple his official residence. Lee fills us in on trying to take on all the continents.
What was it like to summer in Sydney?
We were always at the beach! My favorite memories are of riding my bike there with my sister, and not leaving until the sun would go down. I live in New York now, and being able to start and end the day with a swim in the ocean is one of the things I miss the most about living in Australia.
Tell us your insider vacation spots!
Hyams Beach on the South Coast of New South Wales has some of the whitest sand in the world, and it’s still relatively untouched. It’s close to the Booderee National Park, which is an unspoiled area of beaches and native bushland. Lord Howe Island is also one of our best-kept secrets, with its amazing beaches and forests. The island is a national park and wildlife sanctuary, so the land is protected against new development.
Where are you traveling these days?
I’m making the most of living closer to Europe and South America and traveling as much as I can. I’m looking forward to exploring more of the Southern part of the United States over the next year, and I’m planning a few short trips to Arizona and Texas. Recently, I’ve had a few short breaks with friends upstate in Germantown and Cold Spring.
Is there an Aussie equivalent of the Hamptons?
Not exactly, however, Palm Beach is only a few hours north of Sydney, where you can escape the city for the weekend. There are beautiful beaches and amazing homes that overlook the area. Byron Bay is only a couple of hours from Sydney and has a slightly more relaxed atmosphere, which I love.
Has any vacation directly inspired a collection?
I don’t think a single destination has influenced the collection, however, it’s the discoveries made on vacation that have often had an influence. Most recently, many of the textiles and braided leather belts that I found in the markets of Marrakech found their way into our Fall ’17 collection. Visiting Naoshima in Japan was pretty incredible, too—it’s an island filled with contemporary art and site-specific sculpture. The way each of the works had been integrated within the landscape and architecture left a lasting impression on me. Most of the buildings designed by [Japanese architect] Tadao Ando created a powerful contrast between the stark concrete structures and the stillness and natural beauty of this serene Japanese fishermen’s island.
Which destination is still on your bucket list?
Trekking the Himalayas, sooner rather than later!
Who do you bring with you when you travel?
With my job, I spend a lot of time traveling with my team, which is always so much fun. I love traveling with friends, but my schedule is fairly inflexible, so if no one is available, I am happy to travel alone. I find so much inspiration when I am traveling alone and love the luxury of going at my own pace.
What do you bring with you?
Music is a big part of traveling for me—old favorites include Kate Bush and Malcolm McLaren, and most recently, Sampha, Jordan Raf, and Men I Trust. I also bring a notepad and my iPad pro, for sketching and e-mails.
I always find myself buying local artisan housewares. I purchased a Berber rug when I visited the souks of Marrakech last year; it was one of the first pieces that I decorated my loft with. I also find books, new and used. They are the most impractical things for a traveler to buy, however, there’s always the fear that you will never be able to find them again.
What do you like to cook in the summer?
I don’t eat meat, so my specialty in summer is grilled fish and a selection of fresh salads with a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean influence.
Tell us your craziest travel story.
I’m a very spontaneous traveler, and I like to have the freedom and flexibility to change up my itinerary until the last minute. Last September, I was in Capri with a few friends and we were all scheduled to go our separate ways the following day. Over dinner—and quite a few drinks—we decided to book flights to Morocco for the following day, as we had never been before. We woke up, packed our bags, and the following night, we were in a riad in Marrakech!