Ones to Watch: Alice Lee

Photography by Magdalene Golbieweska
‘Ones To Watch’: the words on everyone’s lips all day; who or what will be the next big thing. The front row and beyond filling up, for the already three time NewGen winners Alice Lee. The husband and wife duo have been off-radar raising a family. Ready to wow us all over again with their couture like pieces, SS12 is their first catwalk show…

The scrawled handwriting of Alice Lee projected onto the back wall, as the lights dimmed. Following the avant-garde edge of Phoebe English, Alice Lee already felt softer, more traditional.
To a heavy machine-like beat the first model walked out, her head encased in black knitted millinery:  two swirling discs reminiscent of woven baskets on either side of the face. The dull black of the headpiece and outfit was highlighted with glossy leather oversized stitches running through the knit, as if binding the delicate holes together and structuring the silhouette.
This stitching motif ran throughout the strong, focused collection; the continuous lines seeming to mimic the fluid production of knitting. Although there was little physical movement, the linear embellishments seemed to electrify the pieces, shimmering rhythmically under the light.
The idea of fluidity and freedom in knitting was related by Lee of Alice Lee backstage post-show: “Sometimes we just sit back and let it [the knitting] go. We follow it rather than it follows us.”
Famed for their couture-like details, Alice Lee’s complex handwork and use of traditional techniques creates highly textured, intricate pieces which cannot be appreciated in the blur of a fashion show.

Though perhaps free in design, the collection had a structured, rigid feel to it. Shapes were clear, specific and familiar: a straight leg here, an A-line there. It very much felt like a defined collection though Alice assures me there is no one inspiration: “It sort of grows as we’re designing, like knitting.”
The super-mini dresses were the showstoppers for me – a sky blue piece comes to mind with a plunging V-neck and wide sporty racer-back. Though sexy in cut and hemlines, revealing erogenous shoulder blades and collarbones, these dresses retain a sophistication. They are for the chic and refined, the knitted panels gliding over toned limbs – no body-con found here.
The cosy connotations of knitwear were juxtaposed with glamourous sequin embellishment, while a long-sleeved dress saw small silver spikes run along the shoulders and down each arm like armour. 

Though often staying true to the female silhouette, one dress featured exaggerated shoulders which swirled out from the seams like the head piece of before.The intricate knitwear translated into some very wearable pieces: a blood red twinset for a powerful executive, with fitted sweaters and flared knee-length dresses for everyday. The sportswear aesthetic lay subtly throughout, lending a clean uniform like feel. I asked Alice Lee after the show what they hoped would happen now. They giddily replied, almost in unison: “We hope that everyone loved it, and that we get some good orders!” 
I don’t doubt it; I can’t have been the only one to walk away lusting after knitwear…

Text: Natasha Slee

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