Designer Dion Lee, winner of the 2017 Australian Fashion Laureate, with model Gemma Ward, one of the presenters at the Australian Fashion Laureate Awards, Sydney, November 9, 2017. Photo: Myles Kalus


SYDNEY – Dion Lee has been named the Australian Fashion Laureate for 2017.

The New York-based Australian was presented with the award at a gala dinner for 300 at Sydney’s Barangaroo Cutaway venue on Thursday evening.

At 32, Lee is the youngest recipient of the Laureate, which is now in its 10th year and recognizes outstanding industry achievement.

Previous recipients include designers Akira Isogawa, Toni Maticevski and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia founder Simon Lock.

The Laureate is the latest in a string of accolades for Lee, who launched his business in 2008, after graduating from Sydney’s Fashion Design Studio and quickly garnering a following for his deconstructed tailoring and signature dresses with complex surface treatments.

The 2013 sale of a strategic stake in the business to the Sydney-based Cue Clothing Co. enabled the designer’s rapid retail expansion in Australia, where he operates eight stand-alone stores, in addition to e-commerce and concessions within the David Jones department store chain.

“[The Laureate] is a bit of a landmark moment for me — knowing that it is voted by your peers,” said Lee, who is now a New York Fashion Week runway regular and boasts over 70 global wholesale stockists.

“It has been a really surreal journey and not a journey without its ups and downs in the past few years. I feel really lucky for my brand to have been supported by our industry from such an early age,” he added.

Decided by a 50-member industry voting panel and managed by IMG Fashion, the Australian Fashion Laureate Awards include five other smaller prizes.

Zimmermann was named the 2017 Best Australian Women’s Wear Designer, while Jac + Jack was named the Best Australian Men’s Wear Designer; Harrolds, Best Australian Retailer; with P.E. Nation winning the Etihad Airways Emerging Talent Award and Dinosaur Designs, the inaugural Best Australian Accessories Designer award.

To celebrate the event’s anniversary, Sydney’s Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences will stage a retrospective exhibition of works from all 10 Laureates called “Catalysts and Creators: The 10th Australian Fashion Laureate” from Nov. 10 through March 11.

Proceedings kick off at the museum with an industry panel discussion program, with speakers including Australian model Gemma Ward, Collette Dinnigan and influencer Margaret Zhang.

A classically trained pianist, Zhang performed live alongside the premiere of her new film “There’s No Space Left in C# Minor” to open Thursday’s awards presentation.

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