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Beyond the Bale : March 2019
Sydney Opera House staff, with Opera House CEO Louise Herron and designer Dion Lee (centre), model their new uniforms on the steps of the iconic building. PHOTO: James D. Morgan Australian fashion designer and International Woolmark Prize alumnus Dion Lee has created new uniforms for Sydney Opera House staff, working with Australian Merino wool in a nod to the heritage of the Australian icon. When Australian fashion designer Dion Lee took to the task of preparing for the International Woolmark Prize as a finalist in the 2012/13 edition – the first in the program’s current incarnation – he looked no further than his home country’s most famous architectural icon for inspiration: the Sydney Opera House. It’s a relationship with both Merino wool and the famous Sydney icon which has continued to develop across the years, resulting in the designer being approached by the Sydney Opera House CEO, Louise Herron AM, to design uniforms for the House’s staff. Naturally, Australian Merino wool was his fibre of choice. The modular collection is made up of 24 pieces, to be worn by some 500 staff across many different facets of the organisation, including its front of house and welcome teams. The uniforms are a key part of the journey when a visitor or performer sees, enters and then discovers the building. Unlike a seasonal fashion collection, staff uniforms come with their own challenges, least of all a vast array of sizes and shapes, but also the need to maintain relevance and not quickly date, given they are unlikely to be updated for years to come. “I was extremely excited by the idea and immediately had a vision for the uniforms,” said the designer, which are the first new uniforms in more than 14 years and were launched as part of the building’s 45th anniversary in late 2018. “There were many challenges in terms of garment functionally, incorporating the many utilitarian elements that a uniform requires. Pockets, belts and openings were required in order to carry and MERINO WOOL TAKES CENTRE STAGE suspend very specific pieces of equipment, including radios, torches and name badges.” The use of wool is key to the range, given its many natural performance qualities. “It was important for us to use wool so that we could mould to the body and achieve a refined finish. The breathability of the fabric is extremely important being a trans-seasonal uniform; it needs to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer.” Lee, of course, trained his eye on the building itself for creative inspiration, his intention to “create an iconic, timeless uniform that captures the sculptural inspirations of the building’s structure and communicates the Opera House’s brand in a modern and sophisticated way”. The resultant range employs a monochromatic navy colour palette, with the building’s concrete inspiring folded accents along the lapels of the tailored jackets and the pockets of the trousers. A pleated dress and skirt take their structural cues from the building’s monumental steps. 16 OFF FARM
In the Shops - March 2019