‘The marginalized will become the status quo’: NYC's queer techno scene brings Lee's Spring/Summer 2020 collection to life.

Creative unions are often forged in the margins. Backchannels—formed inside the steady buzz of a crowd, serendipitously on the internet, or through friends of a friend—exist all throughout the web of artistic industries, then spill over and come to light. Designer Dion Lee, in the midst of working on the Fall/Winter 2020 collection for his eponymous brand, started inviting friends into his studio to DJ and hang out, which led to samples from Spring/Summer 2020 being tried on. According to Lee, “It was inspiring for me to see the clothes interpreted in different ways, with people that I personally identify with.”

Upon meeting the photographer Zhi Wei at a rave, these in-house experiments solidified into moments that should be captured. “Each person was chosen for their strength of character and their individual expression. The idea was to shoot each person as an extension of their personal style, with pieces that they connected with, and for the final images to feel genuinely collaborative,” said Lee.

Wei, who sees themselves as “adjacent to (but not quite a part of) the queer techno scene,” was enthusiastic to get involved because such spaces hold “a utopian promise, where, for a moment in a warehouse somewhere in NY, time becomes fluid and binaries dissolve.” For Wei, this collection of images represents a silent sea change, wherein “the marginalized will become the status quo.”

The pair, along with art director Alex Robertson-Dunlop, worked to bring this utopian promise to life; their visions, and those of their subjects, divergent yet unified around a common cause. Robertson-Dunlop says, “Each sitting had an energy and feeling of its own. It was super nice to watch it unfold from behind the scenes, [from] stepping out on set to editing, and feeling like we had created the start of an ongoing series that would give a glimpse into some personal ideas explored by Dion throughout the evolution of his collection.”

Here’s what it looks like when a creative backchannel bursts.

Hair by Tomi Kono at Julian Watson Agency using R+Co. Make Up by Olivia Barad. Art Direction by Alex Robertson-Dunlop. Set Design by Grace Hartnett.

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