Jerico Mandybur • 12 February 2013

By now, you’ve all heard that Kimbra (along with Goyte, obvz) won 2 Grammys yesterday. Congrats! But you’re probably also dying hear more about the stunning, mermaid-like ensemble that the New Zealand songstress was wearing. The Jamie Lee-created gown and jewels were made especially for the occasion, and it saw the WA designer get a hand-full of blisters, such was her dedication to the dresses’ overall fierceness. Inspired by a recent trip to Broome, Jamie created the gown using multiple layers of pale turquoise silk tulle and embellished it with over 2 kilograms of Western Australian freshwater pearls. Holy haute couture. What we wouldn’t give to see this baby up close!

Kimbra’s whole look, complete with Miu Miu shoes, was styled by Sydney-based stylist/artist Cassandra Scott-Finn, who often works with the duo. Another Australian, Lauren McCowan was responsible for the hair and make-up. What a dream team of females! Anyway, as Jamie Lee says, “How often can a designer from Australia lay claim to dressing a Grammy winner?” To which we respond, “Pretty much, never!” That’s why we thought we’d go straight to the source, by chatting to Jamie Lee, at the height of her post-Grammys craziness.

pages: How did you and Kimbra meet?
Jamie Lee: A Stylist named Jana Bartolo pulled a couple of my dresses for shoot YEN were doing with Kimbra. She fell in love with one of them and asked if she could borrow it for the Parklife tour. I then dressed her for her first ARIA’s and from there, the rest is history.

Is Kimbra your muse of sorts? What do you like about working with her?
She’s my muse in the sense that we’ve worked together for 2 years, but just as she wouldn’t limit herself to one designer, I don’t limit myself to being inspired by one person. Kimbra has an incredible body and we both share a love of colour. Sometimes we have differing opinions but for the most part, we’re almost always on the same page.

How would you describe your relationship/friendship with the singer?
We forged such an incredible bond the night she won her 1st ARIA. It was so unexpected that only her manager Mark and her operations manager Kam came up from Melbourne. There was literally only 5 of us (not including Wally) on-hand to celebrate her win. And now here I am again in LA and she’s just won 2 Grammys!

Does Kimbra let you know what pieces of yours she wants to wear, or is dressing her a collaborative process? Can you describe the process?
I’ve been working with Kimbra for about two years now, so I always have her in the back of my mind when designing new dresses because she has so many events and it’s highly likely if I show her something, she’ll want to wear it. This is actually the first time we’ve got in an actual fitting together because both our schedules are pretty busy and we are never usually in the same country at the same time. We did a fitting about three weeks ago with two options. I made a fit sample without any beading and embellishment to get the shape fitting perfectly. Post-fitting, I sent Kimbra daily photo updates as the dress was being built. I love watching a dress come to life without a definitive idea of what the final product will look like. I couldn’t even tell you the amount of hours that has gone into the dress – my hands are all blistered from the hand-sewing!

How did the two of you come to choose Kimbra’s Grammys outfit; what the kind of things you were considering?
The inspiration for the dress came from Broome and anyone who has travelled to that part of Western Australia will understand why – it’s such a magical part of WA. It’s hard not to be inspired by the rust-red cliffs, the ‘Staircase to the Moon’, there are even ancient dinosaur footprints. There was a certain time in the afternoon when the sun is setting and it the light bounces off the water’s surface like thousands of celestial water fairies are dancing out to sea. I really wanted to create a dress for Kimbra that was reflective of this experience. The base fabric is a soft silk tulle, I hand beaded 2 kilos of freshwater pearls around the train and then slowly graduated them up into the bodice, which is covered with Swarovski crystals, gold beads and more pearls. We added another layer of tulle to the train, to soften the beading and create more drama and volume.

What did you think would be people’s reactions to Kimbra’s outfit on the night?
Going into the Grammys, I was confident that I’d created the perfect gown for Kimbra. It was always going to be difficult to gage how the US media would receive the dress, especially in light of those ridiculous ‘restrictions’. But when E’s Fashion Police posted the first review of the night, I breathed a sigh of relief.

The US media can be very fickle in their judgement of red-carpet choices; were you expecting some backlash when it came to the outfit?
Thus far the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive! Naturally there are few people who don’t like it, but the people who understand the type of musician Kimbra is, understand that she isn’t your conventional pop star and wouldn’t wear a conventional gown.

What do you have to say to those boring people, that don’t like the finished product?
I know I’m not to everyone’s taste, but for me fashion is about having fun and neither of us wanted to play it safe. It’s the Grammys — how often can a designer from Australia lay claim to dressing a Grammy winner! We were at the InStyle after-party last night and everyone kept asking me which do I prefer designing, the Grammys or the Oscars. Sure, I haven’t dressed anyone for the Oscars, but I love music and I love working with musicians, so it’ll always be Grammys.

Who else would you love to dress in the future?
Beyonce, Lana and Florence. I’d also love to dress the ‘Gumtree’ holy trinity, Naomi, Cate and Nicole. Jennifer Lawrence is an incredible actress, she’s beautiful and she’d look amazing in one of my dresses.

Is this the beginning of a Jamie Lee US takeover? What other future plans do you have up your sleeve?
I have a pretty big year planned. I am working on a new collection to show during the couture shows in Paris in July. I’ve also been approached to show the collection again in Dubai, before bringing it back to Australia. Aside from the show I am continuing working with private clients, which has now evolved to included Haute Couture bridal for clients in the Middle East and Asia.

Photos: Jamie Lee