In case the title of this story didn’t give it away, I have a serious crush on Lee Mathews.
When I was a teenager, my Mum used to drag me across town to Armadale High Street to sit on a stool and wait outside some change rooms, while she slipped out of her chef’s clothes and into different dresses made of crimson silk or rich, chestnut cotton.
These were the early days of Lee’s brand, and her designs were unlike anything I’d seen before. The sumptuous fabric flowed in cascades, cinched at just the right part of the body and always perfectly structured. Her designs are an elegant combination of functional and feminine: the uniform of the sophisticated modern woman, with just the right decorative flourishes. I couldn’t wait until I was grown up enough to wear them.
Lee just *gets* women, and what they want to wear. Her success in a notoriously tricky industry has probably got a bit to do with her experience in fashion publishing – her first job in the industry was as an illustrator for Vogue Australia – but it has also come from keeping in touch with her roots. Despite a wide international distribution net, Lee has kept her team small and self-sufficient; a decision that has served well in 2020.
Now, in the midst of a pandemic, Lee’s small Sydney-based team manages a suite of virtual runways and showrooms, organising the production and logistics of a fashion calendar still full of new collections, despite the global halt. It’s been an unexpected challenge for Lee and her team, but a manageable one, due to the scale of the brand, and Lee’s savvy approach to business.
We recently joined Lee for a typical work day, to see how the magic happens.
I wake up around 6:30, meditate, then get up and make a coffee. It sounds a bit counterintuitive doesn’t it?! I love the mornings best. It is the time that I am able to think most clearly about things.
I usually get to work at 9am, and most days I walk to work with my dog Ted. It’s such a beautiful walk, and always puts me in a good mood to start the day. I listen to a podcast (usually Hidden Brain or This American Life). I like listening to things that are completely unrelated to what I do; it feels educational and makes me feel less guilty about not reading as much as I used to.
There are always so many questions to answer as soon as I walk through the door. The mornings are usually meetings of some sort to talk about a collection, fabrics, plans, and or shoots.
Lunch is a bit chaotic in our office. Everyone generally brings their own (especially since we have all returned to work) so the kitchen is like Grand Central Station from midday. Sometimes we do an office lunch, which is usually ordered in from somewhere local.
Typical afternoon tasks consist of fittings, and checking in on the production team. I’m not as energised in the afternoon, so I’m usually checking the kitchen cupboard for chocolate by 3pm and making a coffee!
I finish around 6:30 most days and get home around 7pm. Dinner is variable. I cook a lot: pasta, fish, roasted vegetable salads and sometimes takeaway (but not often). My son, Charlie, is living with me at the moment and he cooks sometimes, which is pretty great – he’s a really good cook.
To unwind, I love to have a glass of wine while I cook and put on something great to listen to. It’s really enjoyable and sometimes I wish it never ended! Cooking is my way to switch off. It’s the only thing that truly stops my mind from going in circles. It requires such attention and it’s so much more enjoyable if you just give in to it and fully absorb yourself, it makes everything taste better too!
I’d like to say I don’t need a lot of sleep, but suspect I need more than I get.
I go to bed at 10:30ish. Sometimes I’ll crawl into bed earlier and read, but reading in bed almost always puts me to sleep these days so I try not to do that anymore.