There was a time when Australian designer Lee Mathews designed for herself, but things have changed. “We started this when my kids were one and two and they’ve grown up now and they’re about to leave school,” says the designer. “I feel like it’s followed them. Now they’re looking at me and it needs to match them."
That time frame is a marker of not only Mathews’s considerable contribution to the local fashion landscape but the timeline of her personal evolution, one that has led to a total label refresh. "I don’t dress in tons of layers any more and I dress a bit simpler. Now it’s a bit more concise and edited."
Mathew’s sensitive version of femininity when it debuted in 2001 was neither overtly girlish nor took itself too seriously. With a particularly deft hand in natural fabrics like silk and linen, Mathews won a loyal following out of her boutique on Sydney’s northern beaches producing staple pieces like long-line sheath dresses and lightweight cardigans. Fluidity and a grounded colour palette were her calling cards.
Fast-forward 14 years and the spring/ summer ‘15/’16 collection debuted Mathew’s reinvigorated look. Wide-legged pants joined raw-edged loose linen blazers, exaggerated cotton shirring, kimono-style shirts and dresses in wood-block prints were cinched with white obi-like belts. All of this was underscored with punctuations of deep red, royal blue and black. A clear confident distillation of who she is, perhaps? "It’s a grown-up version,” says Mathews.
For loyal Mathews disciples, and there are many, the designer says the reboot is designed to make things more intimate between her and the customer. “The essence, it will never change,” Mathews says. “I will always do print and colour and strong shapes and dainty under things and coats. I want to go back to those things by putting it into a new vessel to make it new again.”
Story by Alice Birrell for Vogue Australia October 2015 Issue