Yesterday, Sydney fashion designer Dion Lee opened this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia on the Monumental Steps of the Sydney Opera House. The unveiling of his Resort 18 collection coincided with an announcement that he is to create a new look for the staff of the iconic venue.

Dion Lee with Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron and models wearing his Resort 18 collection. Photograph © Bowen Arico

Lee, who has long been inspired by the dramatic architecture of the World Heritage-listed building, will create a range of uniforms for 600-plus employees, including front-of-house, box office and tour guide staff.

“Dion is one of Australia’s brightest fashion stars whose work draws so beautifully on the sculptural elegance of Utzon’s masterpiece. It will be wonderful to work with him to create a new uniform collection for the people who bring the place to life,” said Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron AM.

Now 32, Lee graduated from the Sydney Institute of Technology in 2008 and made his debut at Australian Fashion Week a year later. In 2010, he was the first designer to stage a runway presentation at the Opera House, when he showed a collection in the Concert Hall Northern Foyer. He subsequently returned there in 2011 and 2014. His 2013 ‘Utzon’ collection propelled him to becoming the first Australian finalist in the International Woolmark Prize and helped launch his international career.

Lee’s designs, which Vogue US described as “cutting-edge garments that are also highly functional”, are sold globally in over 60 of the world’s most exclusive retailers. These days he works from Sydney as well as from his second base in New York.

Dion Lee 2010 Fashion Week show in the Northern Foyer of the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall

Lee said he is “truly honoured” to be working with the Opera House and its staff to design their new uniforms.

“I first visited the Opera House as a child to see theatre and contemporary dance and I have been a regular ever since. The Opera House is a place that I’ve consistently looked to for creative inspiration,” he said.

“Meeting the needs of the Opera House’s very diverse workforce and making sure the clothes combine elegance and utility, inspiration and practicality is critical. It is important that a cultural icon such as the Opera House projects an image that parallels the architecture of the building.”

Design and manufacture of the collection is expected to take approximately 12 months, with Opera House staff closely involved in the process.

The announcement of Lee’s appointment comes as the Opera House prepares to begin its first major Renewal project in the Joan Sutherland Theatre, which is part of a larger $273 million programme of upgrades.

Herron said: “Renewal is transforming the Opera House for future generations of artists, audiences, visitors and, most immediately, for the hundreds of staff who make the magic happen on-and-off stage, 363 days a year.”


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