A man of focus, dedication and class, that’s the best way I can describe Lee Paton, the creative force behind the label of the luxury London fashion house. When he talks about his work, he opens the door to another world, stretches it wide and welcomes you in. In my short time with him I was given a glimpse into a decadent era of Saville Row embroidery, nonchalant silver screen stars and delicate yet powerful prima ballerinas. He was captivating to speak with. It’s rare to meet someone who knows exactly what they want to say and exactly how to communicate it in order to paint the picture of their world so vividly into your imagination.
When I arrived at the penthouse suite of London’s iconic Dorchester Hotel for the label’s AW16 press day, I didn’t expect in these extravagant surroundings to run straight into Lee Paton himself, diligently sat before a mannequin working alongside his assistant, hand stitching minuscule beadwork. Whilst the guests browsed in awe I’ll admit I stole the moment to ask for a quick photo of Lee at work, and we got to talking.
The current collection, the pieces we were all there to see, were as I said, some still in the process of being painstakingly hand stitched when we arrived. It was like Lee had transplanted his studio directly into the penthouse in order to ensure that the advent of his press day did not distract from the creation of these masterpieces. From his dutiful assistants in their crisp white coats stitching thousands of beads to a single pencil dress, right through to his impassioned explanation of the oft times six week plus process to hand stitch every silk thread and bead to the shoulder sleeves of one of the coats in the new AW16 collection, its clear to see that the beauty (or the devil perhaps, if we’re talking 6 weeks to stitch 40,000 beads to a sleeve!) is in the detail and dedication, just as much as in the cut and choices of fabric. The amount of work into a single garment puts distinction to the definition of luxury fashion.
His “Ready-to-wear” collections shout about the bespoke nature of his mainstay work, and to that effect, most have been inspired by the colourful and diverse collection of bespoke clients he keeps. This latest AW collection was inspired by dear friends of his, hollywood starlets of the silver screen now well passed into their golden years—the kind of women for whom glamour is the hotel lifestyle and absence of need to get out of one’s bed robes till late afternoon, and in Lee’s own words, live almost entirely off ‘wine and crackers’ whilst reminiscing on tales of a bygone era of romance and glory. Its a beautiful picture, and each detail in the garments conveys this story with flowing lines, bathrobe folds and embroidered monograms alongside the manifestation of ultra-feminine pinks and glamorous leopard prints.
His previous two collections were no less colourful in inspiration. “La Dame En Noir” from SS16 was the product of a chance encounter, a passing glimpse of demure elegance in the back streets of Kyoto, and his AW15 collection was brazenly named “For Elizabeth” in honour of Elizabeth McGorian, Prima Ballerina of the Royal Ballet, close friend to Lee and client of the fashion house. This is easy to see from the individual pieces of the collection and the way Lee explains them, short cropped tops and careful lines in the design that are inspired for the movement of a dancer. The premiere pieces in the collection however, are extravagant dresses designed to move with the elegance of a dancer.
Alongside his ready-to-wear, Lee is passionate about his bespoke clientele, whom he classes into two most common categories, those who request a piece for prosperity, an heirloom that will be cherished and kept for the most special occasions, and those who want a piece that allows them to arrive with fanfare and go out with a bang for one event only, the garment likely never to be seen again, except perhaps immortalised on the red carpet hanging off the shoulders of a glimmering starlet like Nicole Scherzinger or the lovely Laura Hamilton.
But out of the corner of my eye the cameras are waiting, and moments later Lee is whisked away on edge of a rueful smile to be interviewed by an Arab television channel, and we all move on to be awed by the next room of the collection. As of writing, the house’s latest collection hasn’t even made it to press release yet—it’s so fresh out of the studio, so our knowledge is straight from Lee Paton himself, and all thanks to the team at LadyCPR and the Dorchester Hotel.