Glass debates Russian Constructivism with the minimalist designer J JS Lee
The J JS Lee Autumn/Winter 2012 presentation in Somerset House’s intimate Embankment Gallery Show Space was a frenzy of activity with editors vying for seats at London Fashion Week. Amid the hustle, the collection presented was imbued with a serene minimalism and controlled elegance.
Glass visited the designer behind the label, Jackie, the day before the show at her studio in Dalston. Surrounded by a small team, the designer was mid model-casting but despite the potential last minute panic, the studio was a hub of quiet activity. Thickly cut wedge sole boots in a monochrome palette were neatly lined up, androgynous silver jewellery is catalogued and garments hung carefully on rails.
As the winner of last Fashion Week’s NEWGEN award which gave her opportunity to exhibit with established designers, Lee is quick to emphasise the benefits of developing her brand in the capital, “London is best place internationally for new designers. You are open to so much opportunity.” This year’s London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter collections were awash with rich colours, embellishment and heavy fabrics but it was J JS Lee which communicated a very different aesthetic. Eschewing these trends, she suggested, “You can find a new minimalism using very casual fabrics with tiny details.”
The inspiration behind her collection, “the shadow, the cloud and the innocence”, reveal an almost poetic attitude to minimalist design for which she is celebrated. She recalls a return flight from Korea to organise production, with the sight of billowing clouds outside her window invoking a comforting and warming feeling. Upon returning to London, the designer began creating the collection tailored to her minimal aesthetic.
The idea of shadow informed her colour palette which is reduced to white, blacks, reflections of grey and hints of light yellow. “With the innocence, the woman who wears my clothes wants a very pure, very simple look.” This sensitive approach informed all the elements of her show production with close collaboration with her hair and make-up team with these details set out as part of her initial design vision.
“To describe the cloud and shadow detail, I used coat piping not as decoration but inside to give structure.” Lee incorporated elements of bespoke tailoring by hand stitching garments which gave subtle shadow at collars and hems. This experimental approach also informed how the Autumn/Winter collection evolved from the last, “I realised there are no seasons.”
She elaborates that those who are increasingly interested in her work in South East Asian experience multiple seasons. By rejecting the heavy fabrics favoured in Autumn/Winter collections, she could enhance the versatility of her collection and meet the needs of those who consistently buy her pieces. As a result, immaculate silk crepe was used throughout the collection to enhance the message of lightness and softness.
Lee cites a preoccupation with the Russian Constructivism exhibition at the Tate whilst designing her graduate collection at Central Saint Martins as a continued influence, “They tried to create something in 3D rather than 2D painting. Art has to be used by people it’s not just about seeing it.” Applying the disciplines to this artistic philosophy which marry design with functionality, particular focus was given to creating protruding collars from embossed fabric and graduated neoprene layers sewn on the underside. This gave the designer the ability to play with perspective creating imprints and hidden volume to imitate elements of traditional tailoring. Hard lines were softened using wool frosting to imitate her initial cloud inspiration.
The brand’s design sophistication has in the past drawn the attention of London’s mecca for conceptual designers, Dover Street Market, who bought her graduate collection. She enthuses, “There was a certain pressure selling there because it was my ideal.” J JS Lee’s most recent work evolved this credo further, striking a perfect balance between her minimalist ideals and an appreciation of how clothes fit and feel. With the intense attention focused on J JS Lee at London Fashion Week, her reinvented minimalism is quickly becoming a modern classic. by Georgia Shaw