What's In My Portfolio: Frederick Lee

Interview by Marc Almagro
Photography by Chino Sardea
04 Jun 2018

Amidst the flouncy dresses and colorful fabrics in his atelier, Singaporean couturier Mr. Frederick Lee walks us through his fabulous creations, as well as thought processes that materialize through pen to paper, and finally, as a one-of-a-kind couture creation

Designing comes when I’m relaxing and I start to sketch. I design based on the concept I have in my head: It’s subconscious thoughts flowing on paper, and it’s always a surprise to see what develops.

When it comes to execution, I rely on my technical mastery to decide what is possible and how to do it right. I need to understand every part of my design from the foundation to the finishing touches. People only see the glorious result, and don’t realize the amount of work it takes to produce a garment.There is nothing more important than the integrity of the design from an artistic standpoint. Quality is everything.                             

Although being a designer is an amazing job, I need to get away from it all from time to time. When I need an inspiration boost, I usually search for things that are not directly related to my work, such as music, theater or films. Travelling occasionally is something I do to get inspired. Even an evening stroll can fill me up with good vibes.

Couture to me is the business of selling dreams, one garment at a time. My business journey has been rewarding. This aspect of my career challenges and inspires me. I enjoy the process of creation, but looking after the business has allowed me to enter another world.

I love examining the components that make that world what it is—how people choose what to wear, why they wear certain types of clothes, the societal requirements that influence how they dress. That love, that intellectual curiosity, has led me to a career that no other job has and likely ever could.

I’m believe that innovation in couture will continue setting modern standards in clothing design. I will continue to do what I love most, what I do best—presenting an exciting new perspective in the world of couture.                     

When I was younger, I had no idea what creative inspiration was or how to obtain it. Eventually I learned how to think creatively as I grew older, and let my mind wander as far as it would take me. It’s the only way to get in touch with the creative part of your brain. This does not happen only to creative people. We all have that pathway in our brain that must be actively forged and engaged through constant use.

I find joy in collaborating to create costumes for theater productions and for the annual National Day Parade. I like to inspire and empower people to look at designs in a different light. I’m in no position to teach because I’m still learning and practicing. I always say that I learn more from my failures than I do my successes. Failure is always an option because when I learn what doesn’t work, I understand what does.