THE PERFECT SQUARE
Meet the sQ woman. She's clever, interesting, and effortlessly fashionable. "Her style permeates the senses and her energy is anchored," designer Vicki Lee tells Oyster. "She is assertive and strong, but attains this status by being subdued and mellow. She need not try, she just is beautiful." After viewing sQ's latest collection, we are inclined to agree. Zac Bayly caught up with Lee to find out more.
Vicki Lee has always been artistic, though her path into fashion was never clearly lit. As an ex-litigation lawyer, she blames her sQ co-conspirator for leading her through "that door in Alice in Wonderland" and into the whimsical world of fashion design. "I had a crash course in designing," she explains of those humble beginnings. "Sketching has always been a hobby, so it strangely fit." Her business partner Angelique May Bennett, however, has years of industry experience, having worked as a model, manager, and stylist both locally and abroad. Together the girls launched myPetsQuare, which offers fresh fashion with quirky cuts and playful prints via leading online store The Grand Social. Their more recent, though equally auspicious venture, sQ, has grown from strength to strength, using a more demure approach to design to create myPetsQuare's aesthetic antithesis.
Regardless of the label they're working under, the girls tell Oyster that inspiration for their designs visits on the wings of heavenly floral scents, sunrises at Bondi, and old Toto songs blared over the radio. "I find inspiration in finding a sense of style in everyday things," Lee explains, whether it's "the way someone who passes walks or holds themselves, the colour or texture of a vase and the scent of the flowers inside it - anything that reminds me that I am alive." For their Autumn Winter 2010 collection, entitled Almost Perfect Affair, Lee and Bennett's inspiration sprung from a classic source: the cinema. After spending endless evenings watching Marlene Dietrich films from the 1940s and 50s, ("we watched so many? I thought I was her for a second") the designers created a vision of winter fashion that is at once realistic and fanciful, accessible and original, quirky and serious. Flattering cuts and a monochromatic colour scheme offer a place for these pieces in every wardrobe, whilst swirls, stripes, frills, and long draping add character and edge. "The silhouette of the range has been elongated and there are a lot of clean lines," says Vicki of the collection. "We have made silk jersey trench coats and velvet biker jackets as well as distressed leather slouch pants and overflowing silk chiffon blouses." This modern vision of the femme fatale cuts a dramatic silhouette: think bi-colour full-length dresses and cropped zippered jackets, or schoolboy's blazers teamed with Good Girl silk dresses. The enviably chic Power Silk Dress's puffed shoulders and high collar demand respect. "There is an obvious shoulder obsession going on everywhere, so balancing this structured look with softer pieces is always a good idea," Lee believes. "We are obsessed with making everything longer than it needs to be and layering."
Looking over the monochromatic designs, we wonder where colour fits into the sQ equation. "Colours very much reflect and affect mood," the designer explains. "For Winter 2010 we went with more moody neutral tones (tan, grey, black and cream) and added a splash of pale pink to lighten it up a little. We are not promoting bad moods but perhaps wanted to instill a seriousness to offset the fun Summer 08/09 'Pool Party' that preceded it." The girls' obsession with silk is another trend apparent in the collection. "We are calling it the silk crazy range - from pure china silk to silk habitue, to silk crepe and silk spandex and silk chiffon and of course, my favourite of the moment - silk velvet!!!" Don't let their choice of fabrics fool you though; Lee assures us this range is not for sissies. "The Winter 10 Collection juxtaposes the different ways power is utilised - from the soft, subtle and feminine to the bold, assertive and sexually aggressive," she tells us. "We refute the notion that there is just one way to embody power. This is reflected in the two prints: one a bold and simple stripe, and the other a soft and romantic swirl."
Made all the more accessible by this dichotomy in design, Almost Perfect Affair has all the makings of success- though Lee insists it's far from perfect. "The whole collection is based on the illusion of perfection," and she goes on to explain that "the word perfection is derived from the Latin word 'perficio' which means to finish or bring to an end. So conceptually if something reaches 'perfection' it no longer exists!" As an ex-litigation lawyer with an eye for detail, how does Vicki Lee feel when things don't run to plan? "Angelique and I are constantly learning new things in terms of design, business and of course as people- it's what drives us," she says. "I guess one thing we've learnt that encompasses all of the above is to know when things are in your control and when they are not. When they are, try until you are blue in the face until you are satisfied. When they are not, pour yourself a stiff drink and let it go!" We wonder just what the team behind sQ's conception of 'perfect' is. "Almost Perfect Affair is our version of perfect, that being the acknowledgment of the imperfections that makes you interesting," she explains. "As cheese ball as it may be, I think being true to yourself is as perfect as you can be. You could be in a pink frill dress and still be the toughest girl in the room!"