He had a very masculine, instinctive way of doing it. He’d get beads of sweat on his head. His knowledge of clothes, of what he wanted, was so black and white. There were no gray areas in anything Lee did. He’d slash the whole thing up, cut bits off, re-create pieces, make sleeves, make trousers.
And how often would he change a whole collection?
He rarely changed whole collections, but a collection would evolve alongside his imagination. “Sarabande” (spring/summer 2007) was quite a different collection before the summer holidays. But we kept many pieces and just reworked them — the tailcoats, for instance. Nobody minded.
What Lee instilled in people was his passion. You’d do anything to make him happy. Like the women in the factories who would work late because they were challenged in their own work. Lee had this way of making you challenge yourself. You were always on edge because you had to push yourself. So everybody went above and beyond for him.
I always wondered if, in revering strong, powerful women, Lee had very little empathy for women who weren’t.
Lee loved strong women. From my own experience, the minute I started standing up and expressing my own opinion, he respected me more. You had to be brave enough to do it, but he really wanted someone with an opinion. What made it easy to work with Lee was that he was so clear about what he loved. He never um-ed and ah-ed about anything.
Did you bond over things like movies? They always seemed so important to him. I remember after “The Overlook” (autumn/winter 1999–2000), which took its title from the name of the hotel in The Shining, he was keen to clarify that it was all about Stanley Kubrick’s movie and had nothing to do with Stephen King’s book.
He didn’t really go to the cinema to watch films. He watched DVDs.
I see you’ve pulled out 10 favorites: Barry Lyndon; Death in Venice; They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?; Lady Sings the Blues; La Reine Margot; Paris, Texas; Picnic at Hanging Rock; Coppola’s Dracula; The Hunger; and The Abyss. It’s easy to match each of those films to a collection.
Yes. Barry Lyndon and Sara — bande, for instance. Or The Abyss and Plato’s Atlantis. And the color scheme of La Reine Margot was a constant. Often, Lee would tell me to read books, to look at artists, or to listen to a piece of music. That was the thing about Lee — his mind was so active.
Every season, Lee wasn’t just designing clothes. He really was an artist. He had to better himself, and it was just relentless. But, in saying that, he loved doing it so much. I’d never see him happier than when he was here, touching things, making things.