In another life Lee Mathews, founder of her eponymous brand, would have been an artist. Much of her joy comes from looking at a rail of clothes in the abstract – taking a painterly viewpoint in terms of their colours, textures and patterns and observing how they juxtapose in a way where one piece contributes to the dynamism of another.
Before the form of a piece of clothing is considered comes the fabric; both a start and end point in the creation of her clothes. Cottons, linen, denim, canvas, tweed, wool, and silk georgette are sourced from around the world, prints are designed in-house and somehow the final signature, without being able to put a finger on exactly how, is quintessentially Australian.
“I don’t think of the clientele for my brand in terms of generic demographics. I think of my friends, my staff, the people I admire and I consider their lives and what will give them ease and beauty”, says Lee. As much as she considers the way her customers live, or their lifestyle for want of a better word, she has always been driven by the space, the context in which her designs are presented. Architecture, art and objects of craftsmanship are an established part of her oeuvre and she celebrates the role they play in her creative process.
Like the artists she admires, Donald Judd and Constantin Brancusi for their ability to hold a single gaze over a body of work, Lee has distilled a core aesthetic that is hers alone while experimenting each collection. Her customers trust her as she leads them in new directions, always paying homage to what has gone before but never standing still.
“If I had to be pinned down to a wardrobe philosophy’, she says, ‘it would be to design clothes that resonate deeply with people’s lives, clothes that are functional and beautiful, that are ageless and simple and that you can throw in a bag and travel the world”.