Lee Mathews Hopes The Australian Fashion Industry Will Grow From The Pandemic
The Australian designer shares how COVID-19 could bolster a more supportive industry.
Australian designer Lee Mathews needs no introduction: her eponymous label has been a fixture on the local and global fashion scene for over two decades. The Sydney-based designer has rooted her collections in sculptural shapes and elegant prints, creating a core aesthetic that is uniquely her own.
The quintessentially Australian pieces and distinctive aesthetic has formed the basis of her loyal and trusting customers. But even one of the local fashion industry's most successful and sought-after designers is not immune from the current climate the global fashion industry faces. COVID-19 has affected all, having shifted the way brands communicate and work. Speaking to marie claire, Mathews reveals how the pandemic has shifted her brand and how she hopes the fashion industry will adapt once this is all over.
"How has it not?" Mathews answers when asked how the pandemic has taken hold of the way her team run, explaining that while the brand has always been connected to its customers, they now feel that responsibility even more greatly. "We've looked to ourselves to be the communicators of what we are doing. We've taken a more personal approach—we're already a pretty personal brand, but we're extra personal now. We've seen the first shock of all of this starting to wear off a little bit, and there's a sort of next wave of emotion setting in."
Lee Mathews at home during the pandemic
While stores have shut and usual modes of communication have halted, Mathews is optimistic about what the future holds.
"I hope that it provides a new, more supportive, local industry where young designers actually have a real opportunity," she says. "It's very hard to survive in this country, in this business. I hope this gives rise to more local manufacturing, smaller manufacturing, giving people who are starting out a better chance of getting their pieces made - because, I think that there has been a bit of a flatline in terms of really young, strong local brands for the past ten or fifteen years because they just can't.
"It'd be nice to see some new, independent designers come out of all of this. It'd be good to see some new initiatives coming out, too, that really help support and kickstart those sorts of businesses."
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The experienced designer adds that during these times of uncertainty, she's been amazed by how collaborators and industry locals have banded together—creating a community that supports, understands and bolsters the creativity of one another.
"At the very outset, it felt like there was an instant push. It's been great to feel like everyone is in the same boat."
marie claire is supporting #WeWearAustralian, helping to shine a light on the Australian fashion industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic.