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Inspired by a little bit of everything

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Summer has ended but James Lee is hoping to heat things up with his swimwear designs.

The 26-year-old will unveil his latest collection at the Bermuda Society of Arts tonight, from 6.30pm.

He promised lots of fun-style surprises for fashion lovers.

Why this show and why now?

Well, I was planning a couple of fashion shows prior to this and created pieces for events like the Miss Bermuda pageant. Some of those went through, but some didn't. I had some pieces that were leftover; they had been made but went unseen. I decided to add to them. Now I have a collection with over 30 pieces, including children and adults' swimwear and ready-to-wear clothes. The theme for this particular show is Spring Break because in the international fashion world they launch their spring/summer line in the autumn. This gives catalogues time to include their designs in their upcoming editions and everything can be ready by spring.

How would you describe the collection?

I'd say there are a few different styles. For the kids, you want to keep it fun and simple and add a little style to it. Kids' swimwear nowadays isn't as fun as it used to be. I thought, ‘Let's add a little something extra to it.' So I've created some chain and rope detailing on those swimsuits so they're a little different from what else is out there. For the adult swimwear I've given it this snowboard and ski feel to it. So the models will be coming out on the runway with their wool hats and gloves and scarves on. The ready-to-wear collection has a lot of lacy details, but still follows suit with the rest of the pieces. There are some leggings and joggers in it so it still has the sporty vibe to it. I'm trying to transform it from just active wear into everything — from skirts and tops and beach cover-ups and more jumpsuits and dresses.

What inspires you as an artist?

I'm inspired by a little bit of everything. I'm a very colourful person so a lot of my collection tends to be very colourful, and vibrant as well. I'm planning a future collection that will be more tailored, but before that, I have to refine my skills a bit.

How did you get into clothing design?

I started off with the bottle-cap swimsuits back in 2012, so I have been designing since then. The funny thing is, I've only started sewing this year. I wanted to do design work before the bottle caps, but that was a starting point for me. A lot of other people would have started with sewing first and then started using unconventional materials. I saw using bottle caps as a challenge. I saw them featured in a Sports Illustrated magazine and [decided to do it myself] and it caught on.

A lot of photographers started contacting me to see if they could shoot my pieces. I've done 30 bottle-cap pieces so far, but have stopped doing those for the time being because it's a lot of work. A two-piece bikini probably takes around six hours, give or take, depending on how focused I am. A bottle-cap dress, I've done a few of those, and they can take me up to a week to complete.

What has been the biggest lesson you've learnt over the past three years?

I would definitely say I have a greater respect for designers. [Once you] actually try it for yourself, you realise some things take a lot more skill and technique than you imagined. I'm still refining myself and I definitely need to take a full-on course in sewing. I only have the basics under my belt at the moment, but you can still do a lot with that. Another thing I've learnt over the past few years is how driven I am. When I'm focused on something I will follow through until it's done, even if it's not perfect. Even if an event doesn't go as well as I would have liked, I still go through with it because I know there are models and designers and audience members who have given up their time to be there. I don't like to cancel on people.

What kind of work has gone into creating this collection?

I'm up until 4am most nights, doing sewing or beading by hand for some of the swimsuits. My mom, Joyce Lee, has been helping me as well by doing all the knitwork for the hats, scarves and gloves.

What do you want people to get out of this show?

I'm definitely hoping people will see how much potential our Bermudian designers have. There are a lot of designers on the Island and, especially us young designers, people shouldn't take us lightly. We are very driven people and can bring a lot to the table in terms of the economy. I feel if the Island had more support for its young people and young adults, you would see a lot of change and development.

What's your ultimate goal as a designer?

I would like to eventually have a brand here, but I would also like to go out and have my collection seen internationally in terms of swimwear. I like swimwear because I'm able to have a lot of fun with it. Plus summer is everything to Bermudians — so swimwear seemed like a good place to start.

•Tickets to tonight's show are available for $25 at Kit & Caboodle, Secrets, Sassy's Boutique, The Edge and at the door.

Designer James Lee will unveil his latest collection at BSoA tonight. Look out for swimwear for children and adults and ready-to-wear pieces for spring/summer 2016. (Photograph supplied)
Sizzling swimwear: Justin Cann and Camryn Swan model pieces from James Lee's previous collection (Photograph by Ivan Outerbridge)
<p>Just add water: swimwear trends for 2016</p>

1. Printed swimsuits.

It might be time to put away that monotone swimsuit and find something with a floral or exotic print to it. Stripes and retro prints took over catwalks this autumn. Mara Hoffman is a popular designer featuring this trend.

2. Plunging necklines.

V-necklines aren’t just popular on dresses. They’ve found their way onto one-piece swimsuits as designers use them to add sexy detail.

3. Fringe.

You’ve seen this look on purses and boots, it’s now made its way onto swimwear. Looking for a subtle way to try this trend? Opt for a one-piece bathing suit with fringed detail along the neckline.

Other trends: swimsuits with ruffles, long sleeves, leather details and in vibrant hues like turquoise and orange.

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Published December 18, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 18, 2015 at 12:12 am)

Inspired by a little bit of everything

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