Photo by Steph Wilson. Produced by Biel Parklee.
About a year ago, the menswear designer Ximon Lee was perhaps best known as the 26-year-old Parsons graduate whom Kanye West once said was "killing it." This was following the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy Prize competition in March 2015, for which he was a finalist and West was a judge.
Does it get any better? Yes. Today, Lee is definitely still killing it. But his most recent achievement is something equally challenging for a young designer to acquire: self-validation.
"Last season was more diluted because there were so many things I wanted to say," said Lee, just days before his Fall 2017 runway show at London Fashion Week: Men's. "But this season, I really learned how to focus and get my point across."
Lee, who was born in Manchuria and has lived all over China, moved to New York for Parsons School of Design with a bachelor's in fashion, and his final collection in 2014 won him the Parsons Menswear Designer of the Year award. This put Lee on a fast-track to fashion week, and he expanded the collection for the Fall 2015 V-Files MADE show in New York, which gained him international attention. He's since shown a total of four collections at fashion week, and each season develops a clearer idea of his voice as a designer.
When Lee was a student, he cited Craig Green as one of his men's wear inspirations, and this week in London, both of their names appeared on the same calendar. In the past, Lee's collections have echoed Green's large proportions and romantic riffs on militant styles, but Lee himself was more interested in boxier silhouettes and various treatments of denim. For Fall 2017, however, he's strayed even further from Green by focusing more intimately on the human form. For the first time, he's introduced knitwear into the collection and even included a brocade inspired by a nude oil painting.
"There’s still a continuation of the study of hardness, which I focused on for Spring 2017," said Lee. "But this season the theme is shame. The exploration of the body and gender is still a main point of the collection, but I’ve matured with a lot of woven fabrics. It’s a growth in terms of materials in a way that gives us much more space to design. The proportions are very different; the form is very tailored. The clothes reveal the body, but also hide it at the same time. It’s almost like hide and seek; it’s a game of wanting. "
Tactile playfulness is something Lee has explored in the past, but rather than using slippery, sexual PVC plastic and cuts that look like cardboard boxes but feel like pillows, he's now finding romantic ways to drape fabrics and translate luxury with embellishments like pearls. His boxier coats, for example, have slits up the side and taper in to accentuate the wearer's waist. Plus, his knitwear is draped in such a way to even show some skin. In short, it also happens to be his most wearable, retail-friendly collection yet.
"With each study, I learn a lot of lessons," Lee said before getting back to work on the finishing touches. "Last season was about exploring a process. Like how do you translate a material in a completely different way than its original property? I played with perception; it looks soft, but when you touch it, it feels like a marble sculpture. This season, I wanted to make it much more precise. I wanted a beautiful, romantic boy."
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