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Louise Herron, Dion Lee and staff of the Sydney Opera House wearing the new uniforms. Image: Daniel Boud

Unveiling our new uniform by Dion Lee

From toile to prototype, take a glimpse at the designer’s process

Katie Hryce

Last May, we announced that Australian fashion wunderkind Dion Lee would be designing the new uniforms for our staff. In this documentary, Dion Lee takes us on a behind-the-scenes look at his design process, from his architectural inspiration to understanding the functionality for each piece of the collection.

The Lee-designed uniform is part of a modular, contemporary 24-piece collection and the first new uniform in 14 years. The project is an important part of the renewal of the Opera House and seeks to reinforce the building’s heritage and vision in a corporeal way. Worn by 500 staff, the collection will span many facets of the organisation, and has been launched in celebration of the building’s 45th anniversary. Staff wearing the uniforms will be a key part of the journey when a visitor or performer sees, enters and then discovers the building. Our Front of House, Tours and Welcome teams will wear the uniforms from mid-December.

Front of House uniforms by Dion Lee. Image: James Tolich

A history with the House

Dion Lee’s history with the Sydney Opera House goes back to his 2013 Utzon collection, which was named after architect Jørn Utzon and inspired by key photographs by Max Dupain of the iconic performing arts centre being built. “It is important that a cultural icon such as the Opera House projects an image that parallels the architecture of the building,” said Lee, and the parallels here are strong – in practice, the sails become cloth, metal structures become bone.

This collaboration comes at a key time for the Sydney Opera House, and as one of the many measures that form its decade of renewal. Like other renewal projects, it’s a balancing act: maintaining artistic and architectural integrity while being fluid enough to allow for changes in line with how cultural spaces are used by their communities, staff and visitors.

Front of House uniforms by Dion Lee. Image: James Tolich
Front of House uniforms by Dion Lee. Image: James Tolich
Tours uniform by Dion Lee. Image: James Tolich
Welcome Team uniform by Dion Lee. Image: James Tolich

Lee’s collection embraces egalitarianism: high culture concepts in couture that are available to the people in ways that feel like a natural part of their day-to-day life.

The collection, despite Lee’s high fashion roots, will be worn by more than 500 staff across a range of departments and roles.

The physical element of fashion — how clothes move and breathe — has dictated many elements of the collection as the uniforms will be working apparel. Lee’s tailoring and motifs have had to have one eye on practicality and the other on architectural legacy. The human factor of the Sydney Opera House staff uniforms, just like the way the public interacts with the building itself, will give the clothes life.

Dion Lee fitting the uniform on Sydney Opera House usher Van Hoang. Image: Nic Walker

Turn, turn and turn again: The designer with the illusionist's gift

In the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Weekend, Caroline Baum talks to the staff, the ushers and CEO Louise Herron on the perfect fit.

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