Interview | Lee Paton

Head stylist Taheed Khan gets personal with Couture designer Lee Paton who has designed for the stars and royalty – we delve into his world of style and find out a little more about the man behind the wonderful works of art

What made you get into fashion?     

I had studied Criminology & Forensics at university and when I was about to start working for London’s Metropolitan Police service they had a 5-year recruitment freeze. A friend of mine who worked at a fashion PR agency offered me some freelance work with him and I fell in love with the industry and after some experience took my chances by applying to study fashion design at the London College of Fashion.

 Who inspires you? 
My private bespoke and couture clients inspire me most. Seeing their passion and excitement throughout the whole creative process is incredibly motivational. And their reaction when the garment is complete makes all that time and effort worthwhile.
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Describe your average working day 
My days are long and generally there is action 7 days a week taking place within the atelier. We always start every day with a team meeting over breakfast. We all work closely around one big table so even if someone is a couture embroiderer they are still exposed to everything else that is happening, they will know what the furrier is doing and the furrier knows what the pattern cutter is doing and so on.
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McQueen or Galliano           

I loved early McQueen and I loved Galliano at Dior. I have never met John but obviously had the pleasure of meeting Lee. My time at the McQueen studio was amongst some of the most influential moments I have had the fortune to experience to date. 

 Who would you like to dress?         

Myself! I’m useless at that. I have quite a list of private clients whom I never dreamed I would ever meet let alone work with. They include singers, actors/actresses and royalty. Every year I look back at the previous 12 months and think: “hold on, did all that really happen?” 

 
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If you weren’t a fashion designer what would you be? 
 I would have stayed within some area of law enforcement and forensics. I grew up in the English Lake District where creative subjects were not encouraged in school so working in design was never a thought in my mind.
 

What one piece you have created has been the most proudest moment    

I am currently working pieces for an entire wedding party – a couture bridal gown, groom’s bespoke tailoring and 3 embroidered bridesmaid dresses. It has been a big challenge but I cannot wait to see them all complete. It has been a real pleasure to get so involved in someone’s big day. 

 

What do you do to relax and unwind?      

There is a small cottage in the French countryside where I spend as much time as possible when designing collections. It’s secluded so I might sketch by the pool during the day and then gorge on cheese and wine by night! I travel a lot and always manage to get work into my holidays one way or another, but I love what I do so it never feels like a chore. 

 
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Favourite city and why?

I think I’m yet to find my favourite city. I live in London but I don’t feel committed to it, I feel it’s changing and not particularly for the better. I get different things from the different cities I spend time in (usually London, Paris and New York) so I tend to travel when I can’t find what I need from wherever I am at that moment. You can’t be creative if you live in a black hole.

 

What is your opinion on fast fashion?

Fast fashion serves a purpose and affordable garments are an obvious necessity. My only real concern is the environmental impact and how often it is willingly overlooked. There are too few people asking questions. As long as they can find a hat with a fur pom-pom at a price they want to pay they don’t care where the fur comes from.

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Your clothes are a work of art – who are your favourite artist(s)   

My tastes change and I think that’s a good thing as a designer. The more I see or become exposed to, the ideas all creep in and pop up later when I least expect it. At the moment I’m really keen on woven and traditional textiles in art by the likes of Yinka Shonibare and Frederique Morrel.

 

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