Otago Polytechnic

Doodling, dexterity and discipline inform the work of Otago Polytechnic Fashion Design graduate Phoebe Lee, one of more than 30 talented designers selected for the iD International Emerging Designer Awards, which will held at the Regent Theatre on 15-16 March as part of iD Dunedin Fashion Week.

And when Phoebe talks about black belts, she’s not referring to any fashion accessory. She means a taekwondo black belt, a level of martial arts proficiency she attained a few years back.

As Phoebe has discovered, there are connections between the seemingly disparate worlds of fashion and flying kicks. She knows full well that when discipline meets dexterity, great things can be accomplished.

Phoebe recalls a “lightbulb moment” early in Bachelor of Design (Fashion) studies at Otago Polytechnic.

“My very first Fashion Design Studio project in year one surprised me a lot. The brief was to create an outfit, with ‘Utilitarian’ as the theme, and it had to be made using only black and white.

“I remember I had filled up an A3 book with all sorts of designs inspired by my Chinese heritage, including traditional dress from Asian countries. I tied the Yin-Yang philosophy into my inspirations, and my experiences becoming a black belt in the Korean martial art of taekwondo and the femininity behind it.

“It was so exciting to come up with a great design but, because of my lack of experience in the ground-work of construction, I struggled to resolve how my design would come to life, and sit on the body the way I wanted it to.

“It was a real ‘lightbulb’ moment when I figured out how my off-the-shoulder top could be assembled. After the project, my garment was put on display alongside my workbook as part of Otago Polytechnic’s 2016 Debrief exhibition; I also had a mini fashion show with friends.

“I realised that no matter how hard this degree was going to be, I could push through and I achieve it.”

Fast-forward a couple of years: Phoebe is about to showcase her designs as part of the iD International Emerging Designer Awards, which will held at the Regent Theatre on Friday and Saturday.

One of more than 30 young designers from around the world to be selected for the awards, Phoebe says being a finalist is “a really great validation of my creativity”.

“It feels really good to be noticed, that my designs are creative enough to be a part of this extraordinary event. I feel like three years of hard work and perseverance have paid off.”

“The title of my collection is called ‘Dream Love Thrive Create’. The words sum up my design philosophy and way of life. DLTC is cute, gawky, funky and edgy.”

Phoebe says the works she will show at the Emerging Designer Awards build on her 2018 graduate collection.

“I am inspired by other realms of creativity. For example, I made a black bomber jacket, and had the soft cushiony material digitally printed with my own fabric design, for which I assembled a big collage of my various doodlings, drawings and illustrations based on ideas about dreams, love, and creativity.

“I also incorporated illustrations of what I call ‘nymphs’. They are alien-looking females with big circles of blush on their cheeks and forehead, big lips and with large fawn ears, with varying hair colours and styles.

“I hand-painted a dozen of these characters on to vegan leatherette and integrated them throughout my collection. Some were sewn on to garments as patches in various sizes; others have been made into key-chains. I’ve also digitally printed them on to fabric.” 

Phoebe says she is looking to grow her “Dream Love Thrive Create” brand.

“I’d love to be selling worldwide online. For now, I am delving back into other kinds of creative work. I want to experiment and find other ways where I can express what DLTC means to me through other mediums.”

In the meantime, she has an awards show to get to.

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Published on 12 Mar 2019

Orderdate: 12 Mar 2019
Expiry: 31 Aug 2019