The current dynamics of the fashion industry – increasingly manifesting online – are producing perfect habitats for young labels with a great creative potential to reach a global market. With an avant-garde aesthetic, Ximon Lee has spawned a distinct profile in just a few years, with each collection emerging from in-depth research. Before XIMONLEE, and even before finishing his degree at Parsons Design School in New York, Ximon won Parsons Menswear Designer of the Year Award with his graduation collection. Further still, he went on to win the H&M Design Award, garnering international attention. He’s known for making avant-garde wearables, brilliant craftsmanship, and critically exploring important topics such as cultural heritage and senses of belonging. Creativity and authenticity often lose their value as a brand begins to grow. What does it take, then, to be part of an international form of cultural production that constantly struggles between being a from of art or being labeled as mere branding? Ximon Lee has been through all these different stages within his short but impressive career. This provided him with an unique experience that created XIMONLEE, where his knowledge of a consumer driven market is combined with an belief in high-concept design. Thus, his garments are characterised by an interplay of exaggerated shapes that are not assigned to a certain gender. His work imposes a constant exchange of traditional refinement and context with a postmodern philosophy that deconstructs the purpose and aesthetic of the pieces. It’s always discussed what fashion should be, could become. Today, young fashion’s biggest hurdle is facing the increasingly corporatized industry, where conglomerates sit heavily on the market. What is the right way to sustain a fashion brand? DANSK had the opportunity to meet with Ximon in Shanghai to get a glimpse into the label that is not easily put in a box, lead by a tremendous design talent and a global citizen.
Tell us more about the current collection that has just been presented during Paris Fashion Week.
The original idea for the collection titled “Synthetic Beings” came about after discovering a 1930s Pekingese carpet produced by American manufacturers, it was a mixture of Chinese fantasy elements puzzled into an almost Western-Chinese design. This got me interested in working with the idea of nostalgia, referencing classic eastern silhouettes and presenting them in a western context, bringing fantasy and reality together.
Who is the label XIMONLEE? What does Berlin as base imply and is there an overall definition of the brand’s mission and aesthetic?
The brand has always drawn a lot from my own personal feeling, always aiming to speak to society from my own perspective while addressing current issues and problems I see in society. Berlin as a city has given me a new way of seeing things as I have found myself in a new community of like minded people with more freedom, which has allowed me to feel more comfortable in creating my own works.
How would you define the dynamics within the fashion industry today? What are its opportunities, as well as obstacles in terms of freedom in designing and validity.
More platforms have allowed for more ways to promote different ideas of beauty, different opinions. Designers are now able to share their ideas and opinions to a much wider audience, which has given a bigger voice to individuals. At the same time, this opportunity to self promote can lead to ideas being too easily consumed due to the quantity. This means a lot of concepts are not sustainable. Often creative ideas are not allowed to be fully realised before being released as there is a constant pressure to produce new content.
With a growing prominencecomes responsibility. As an established label, how do you work with your status?
We have a responsibility to not over-expose or exploit subcultures for our own gain, especially as we cannot be fully knowledgable of certain cultures or associations people may have towards them. Our job is to ensure we do not oversaturate or use minorities, not to promote a specific beauty standard, instead to appreciate the human body in any form, not catering to specific body type. The power of a fashion designer is to tell a story with human body and provide a fresh perspective using wearable creations without abusing this power.
You’ve held various positions within the industry. How do you feel about media platforms and a globalized world influencing it?
During my short time in the industry the opportunity to share your work to a global audience has become easier than ever. Individuals are now able to influence dialogue in the media far quicker, whereas it used to be other way around with selective group of press being the sole way to get your work into the world. We are now able to create our own press to influence a larger audience and raise awareness in labels that lots of media are not able to cover.
Would you define your cultural heritage as great influence to your design practice?
Growing up in many places has meant being exposed to a variety of cultures, this has given me a very mixed perspective, which probably influences my design on a subconscious level. I don’t aim to emphasize my own heritage in my designs, but I can see that it has come out naturally throughout my collections to date.
How is your connection to art / performance art?
As I am always working with human body and movement in my design practice, performance art often grabs my attention. I have imagined how my work could translate into other art forms. For AW18 I worked with artist Pan Daijing on a performance piece called Master of Mess, presented in Shanghai in an old naval training building. I designed garments for the 11 characters, while Pan composed and choreographed the performance. It was interesting to see how the textiles and silhouettes morphed with the characters. The interaction of the garments with the lights, sounds and movement helped give an entirely new story to my work. We are currently working on a new piece together with Pan to be presented in Genève later this year.
For more information, see XIMONLEE