Lee Lapthorne has produced some of fashion’s biggest catwalk shows, launched OnOff which showcases some of fashion’s best emerging talent and currently works as a creative director and consultant, so who better to be our LDNER this week…
Where do you live in London and what do you like about the area?
I live in the Essex countryside, which is a great contrast to Central London, where I work daily. In Essex I love to visit The Shed on Mersea Island – Fantastic fish with King Prawns to die for… And the Car Boot / Antiques market – Off the London Road B1408 / A12 – on Wednesday mornings is FULL of amazing pieces and a mixture of really antique gems and car boot bargains. But I have the best of both worlds country living Vs all that the city offers. I’m a ‘Brummie’ and proud!. After graduating from my MA at UCE (now BCU) I started my PhD at Chelsea School of Art to continue my studies – textiles in architecture which led me to move to Hackney Dalston Junction in a warehouse apartment with a group of gay mates off Nimrod Passage. Dalston back in the day was a tense and intense area to live in, the opposite of the now gentrified and pretentious area its now become. We had fun and massive house party’s which had a feeling like a private nightclub. After a year I moved to Clapton Ponds on what was known as the “murder mile” – this too has now become an expensive area to live in.
Finally I moved to Stoke Newington to Gibson Gardens which was an old milk yard used now for a film set. Most of my meetings are held at charity house and members club The House of St Barnabas where I’m a member. It’s a chilled out club and its CEO Sandra Schembri I worked with at the RAA. Unsurprisingly, you can see contemporary art from RAA adorning the walls of House of St Barnadas. The club supports new talents and also has a charity that pledges to break the cycle of homelessness.
You founded OnOff 15 years ago, what was the inspiration behind it?
On|Off was first established to help and support my designer friends who were looking for an alternative showcase to the then rather dull environment of the tents at London Fashion Week on the Kings Road and later the tents on the Natural History Museum lawn. I secured the Royal Academy of Arts as our venue and then showcased fashion shows alongside a unique selection of art and design pieces. Visitors absolutely loved our aesthetic and vibe and of course our selection of designers. We quickly gained international respect from buyers and press. I love discovering new talent and supporting them to realise their dreams – sounds like a corney but that’s what drives me. It hasn’t been easy either, we had to fight hard to get funding, support and recognition from our homeland own industry. Fashion is a fickle world and comradery really isn’t in its vocabulary. I’m pleased to have supported some of the now biggest names showcasing and working at London Fashion Week.
How do you find new brands and designers?
I visit international fashion and design fairs and keep an eye on what the contemporary magazines are featuring. I’m a fan of the Royal College of Art fashion department who produce some credible MA level designers, and I love their show format. Paris Fashion Week attracts all the international designers, emerging to established, so I make sure I pop a long to research. All that said I have discovered some amazing talent at other surprising venues, gigs, dance, ballet shows and theatre shows. I also get a number of designers approach me directly. Many of which need coaching before they are ready to showcase, I’m consulting for a few at the moment.
You have your fingers in many pies, but what have been your career highlights?
I’ve been lucky to have met and worked with a number of super talented people, designers, artists, singers, musicians, lighting designers, music producers, photographers, hair stylists, make up artists and stylists. The highlight is always when I successfully pull a show together against many odds. A few of my highlights have been: working with Isabella Blow was special, selecting music with Tom Findley (Groove Armada) to remix for a show was major, working with and preparing designers for On|Off Presents.. is inspiring, welcoming Anna Wintour and various celebrities that have visited our shows has been challenging and thrilling too. Lecturing at various universities and meeting new talents. Being named Alumni of the year at BCU was an honor, Selling my own designs exclusively at Harvey Nichols and then in On Pedder in Hong Kong was a great achievement. My latest achievement though has being able to slow down, focus on my creativity by building my own print studio in my garden – it’s my haven.
Describe your perfect day in London.
Taking an early run with my 2 dogs (Ella – German Pointer and Molly – Miniature Dacshund), over the fields at home. Spending the day in the print studio experimenting with and creating new fabrics and the evening at my pottery class – learning a new medium. Then back home for a glass of wine and a cuddle with my bitches.