Foam, trash bags, copper wire, repurposed denim from the Salvation Army, and cardboard might not seem like the materials for an award-winning fashion collection, but for Chinese-born Korean designer Ximon Lee, that’s precisely what he turned them into. Lee, 24, attracted attention for his thesis collection only a few years after he moved to New York from Hong Kong in search of “new energy and diversity” and landed at Parsons School of Design. Drawing inspiration from the layers of found clothing worn by a group of Russian street kids in the 2005 documentary The Children of Leningradsky, the collection’s cropped jackets, oversize foam vests, and copper-striped denim won Lee the 2015 H&M Design Award.
Since then, Lee’s entrée into the New York fashion world has been seamless: This past June he showcased the spring collection of his own line, XimonLee, in Paris; and this month H&M will present an eight-piece gender-neutral collection that translates his thesis work. “Collaborating with H&M was like summarizing a book into a page of beautiful writing,” says Lee. Among the pieces are a classic white-collared shirt that has been updated with an elongated, sharply pointed collar and pleated shorts paneled with black leather, remaining true to Lee’s fondness for textile manipulation. “Fashion is art,” he states, “but it has to be wearable at the end of the day. I don’t think creativity is lost with commerciality, since you have to be more creative when it comes to translating conceptual ideas into simple touches for customers to appreciate.”