Lee Wood is a British designer living and working in Milan for 16 years, initially for the Italian label Versace and recently founding his own Label L72. Lee loves playing with contrasts and tries to achieve unconditional perceptions for people who wear his brand. He likes the idea of minimalism as it provides people with elegant wearable clothing that they pair how they like. His A/W ’16/17 collection was inspired by Vellamo, a Finnish sea goddess that protects sailors from the coming storms. Lee loves to achieve balance in his collection, like a storm that is salvaged by a sea goddess. The elements of safety are apparent everywhere in the collection, whose pieces were mixed and matched in infinite combinations showing the infinite possibilities- a key concept behind the L72 brand which aims to provide people with clothes, not with looks.
In our conversation with Lee Wood it was also interesting to compare fashion in London with that in Milan- another contrast Lee is familiar with. Here are his opinions about international fashion, his brand and the AW16 collection:
What do you think is the difference between fashion in London and fashion in Milan?
Structure. Milan has more of a business vibe while London has a more creative approach. The industrial infrastructure is present in Italy, also British brands are made in Italy, as there was a massive textiles and manufacturing boom in the 60’s/70’s that are still thriving today, this is the difference. It’s for this reason that I based my brand here. I don’t like to just sit at my desk while collections are being made. I like to visit the factories and speak to the people that are making the clothes, being here makes it easier for me because I don’t have to travel abroad to visit the production facilities.
London has a great energy, the energy in Milan is more corporate, in this case though corporate is not a bad word though, here the pace is a bit slower, but it is because they are sustaining massive industries. London has more of a curious, inquisitive, surprising energy, they keep moving, change things day by day. However Milan and Italian fashion, especially in the last few seasons is becoming more experimental- there is a new influence coming into Italy.
L72- what is the meaning behind it?
L72 is my name, Lee, and my year of birth, 1972. I didn’t want people to approach my brand with a name; I didn’t want them to read the name and have preconceived ideas like he is a boy or he’s British. I wanted people to approach the brand with curiosity and an open mind to see something in a different way. I like very much the idea of neutralising people’s perceptions so that they can elaborate them in a more personal way.
Moving forward it’s good to provide people with the good staple clothing, to provide them with a line and a structure, which then they can add to- like crazy shoes, accessories, or a vintage coat, it is up to them how they wear it. I don’t think that in today’s commercial world people buy total looks any more, that era has gone.
You have to provide people with clothes, not looks. For this collection we did the fashion show in Rome during Altaroma, we shot the look book and the campaign and now we are presenting it here during Milan Fashion Week. Each time we reviewed the styling of the looks purely to show people that it is a versatile collection, whilst retaining the mood of the season proving that it is a collection of pieces rather than set looks.
Why is Finland the main inspiration behind the collection?
Nature has always been important in my life. 2015 was an extremely good year, but nature has a way of balancing, when things are going there is often something that counter balances. Last summer, after winning the “Who Is On Next?” talent scouting project by Vogue Italia and Altaroma,
I was on my summer vacation, sitting on the beach looking out to the sea, and I was watching the clouds and the sea, the way they are constantly in motion, like human emotions and I connected myself with this. While doing my research I found this mystical goddess from Finnish mythology called Vellamo, she controlled the wind, storms and waters. Sailors and Fishermen, would pray to her for a good catch, to be safe and it was that yin and yang moment for me- I needed someone to protect me and in her I found a kind of comfort. When there is a storm, who do you turn to? I like the idea of having a mystic woman that could protect you.
Then I watched some films which all have a connection: The Perfect Storm, Sophie’s Choice and The Piano. They are favourite films of mine for a long time. Turbulent seas and strong emotions are present in all of these films.
What kind of elements can we find in your collection?
Elements which are associated with protection in the sea, the orange symbolises the life vests, jackets, dinghies, boards- when you look out to the sea you see the flash of orange that’s coming to save you. It is a hopeful, optimistic message in the middle of something dramatic.
Some of the pieces have a photograph of the sea that is manipulated digitally; the idea behind this is to have more technological appearance, while the embroidery is created from shredded organza and tulle to recreate the idea of a piece of stormy sea. I included diverse elements typically used by sailors like waterproof nylon and cottons for sportswear inspired pieces, a captain’s coat with embroidered sleeves and real fishnet to reproduced an apron skirt over trousers, as if to remind people that if you pray to Vellamo she will feed you as well.
The A-line skirts and feminine looks are very much inspired by the 1950s, not just the fashion of that era but the whole post-war creative movement, there was such optimism and this bred a radical change in design and architecture. I like to play with structure, volume and proportion.
A lot of the outerwear is inspired by masculine tailoring to go over the feminine shapes, to recreate a balance of masculine and feminine energies.