Interview: We Chat With Lead Designer Of Fragile Minds Josh Lee
Teaming up with AISON ANDÉR for ‘OUR FANTASIES REMAIN’.
Mad Love
Words by Andrew Yee April 1, 2022

How would you describe this generation of young creatives? To most, cliches like “naive”, “green”, and “inexperienced” come to mind. For insecure gatekeepers looking to preserve their shrinking islands, something along the lines of “out-of-their-depth” might escape their lips. And anyone with at least one eye open to the current state of the world “justifiably frustrated” is fitting.

For Josh Lee, it’s fragile. 

Lee is the lead designer behind Fragile Minds. The Sydney based brand was established back in 2019 as an avenue for Lee to express his unique approach to fashion. The label immediately turned heads with its DIY aesthetics and ethos of repurposing that exudes an authenticity that is often fabricated but rarely earned. Lee’s lifetime of rich highs and gritty lows have been interwoven (literally) into each piece, giving the brand a raw honesty that defies an industry often willing to buckle to the latest trends.

However, defining Fragile Minds as merely a ‘brand’ would be missing the point entirely. For Lee, it’s a movement that looks to create independence and sustainability for a community of young creatives trying to have their voices heard. Instead, Fragile Minds wants to express all its designers’ joys, vulnerabilities, and chaos without the muzzle of societal pressures and expectations.

Fragile Minds has teamed up with AISON ANDÉR to create ‘OUR FANTASIES REMAIN’. The collaboration explores the tantalising idea of alternate realities and the big questions of “what if?”.The collection stands as a testament to both brands’ shared values, creating pieces imbued with equal parts rebellion and meditative thoughts.

We caught up with Lee to talk about his beginnings, dedicated ethic, and ‘OUR FANTASIES REMAIN’ with AISON ANDÉR!

Firstly, congratulations on the collaboration between Fragile Minds and AISON ANDÉR! How does it feel for people to see ‘OUR FANTASIES REMAIN’ and get a piece for themselves? 

Thank you! Feels great to finally release this collab, been a long time waiting.

Taking it back, what initially inspired you to pursue fashion? Did you face any resistance to the decision from those around you at the time? 

Although fashion is something that has always been prevalent in my life, by no means was it ever on the top of my priorities. Growing up, I’ve had many passions but have always struggled to find the one thing that I could truly be all in on. I’ve always worked hard with everything I have done- some may say all in, but to me the lack of substance always resulted in me giving up.

The differentiating factor for me was the struggle I went through trying to make this career path work; the lack of guidance, resources & community became indisputable throughout my journey. Although difficult, going through this not only taught me resilience but also brought to my attention exactly what I want to achieve within this industry. 

It would be inauthentic for me to say that this has been my whole life- I’ve lived other lives, but the experiences and hardships I’ve endured have built an undeniable passion for what I do. This is why I emphasise the importance of trying new things; Although experience & knowledge may differ, the sense of purpose or drive cannot be outmatched no matter the situation.

Your approach to creating pieces prioritises independent practices and repurposing of materials. Why was this important to you?

My driving purpose is to somehow create a self-sustaining economy within the industry. Although this may seem counter-productive to some, I believe by lowering the entry level, saturation & innovation will follow in the right areas. In my logic, more people making garments (in Au) leads to more jobs in the industry, resulting in more ethical, locally sourced manufacturers and a more diverse scene in Australia.

I started repurposing as I was in a position where I had to be resourceful. I didn’t have much money, equipment nor experience so rather than waiting for those resources to accumulate I thought that it was important to work with what I could.

However, after gaining some more experience and knowledge I learnt about the importance of sustainable and ethical fashion. The impacts of mass manufacturing are immense. Not only when it comes to waste but the treatment of workers. Having done this work myself, I understand both the craftsmanship and the countless hours that need to be put into manufacturing garments. I have gone months on end working 15+ hours a day with no days off. Imagine how it would feel doing that for less than $1 an hour. People are treated unfairly and I don’t want to be a contributor towards that.

In addition to this, I do have a love for the craftsmanship behind manufacturing clothing. Although counterproductive to time & the growth of the business, doing it myself gives me the capacity to do things that I wouldn’t be able to afford and also gives me the ability to incorporate unusual practices that traditional manufacturers may not do. This gives me endless possibilities and full creative control to create the perfect piece in my own eyes.

What made you decide to establish Fragile Minds? 

Simple answer; I was sick of talking. Stripped of my ego and pride, I realised that I was purely an image with no substance. Always trying to impress but never really achieving. After years of substance abuse, crime, anger and depression, I am so grateful to have come out the other side so passionate and driven to do what I do. It’s crazy to say but Fragile Minds saved my life. 

A significant part of the brand is exploring the idea of fragility and how we can become stronger through connecting to a community. Can you share any experiences you had that shaped this perspective? 

For me, Ian Denholm (WOLF SAIKO) was a big influence on my overall ethos on life. Saik truly embodied what it’s like to be self-less & has had a massive impact on not just myself but many incredible creatives from Sydney. He taught us all the importance of youth, culture, inclusivity & authenticity. Always inspiring others to believe in themselves as together we can uplift change in ways we can’t alone. Because of him, I am who I am today and I will forever do everything in my power to continue his legacy, striving to create a brighter future for the youth, by the youth.

How did you initially link up with AISON ANDÉR?

Alex and I have known each other for about 2 years and have resonated with each other through both our culture and creative endeavours. Both our brands, Fragile and Aison have purpose and consideration at the core of their DNA. For fragile it comes in the actual craft- developing bespoke pieces with a focus on the process, need to limit excess, and creating with the community in mind & for Aison, it comes in story- the reason for being which is ultimately embedded on the need to drive POC excellence through the mediums of fashion and art. These connections were too prevalent to ignore and we both concluded that it would be perfect for us to link up and create this project together!

What was the process like of collaborating on the pieces and the story behind the collection?

This collection is a story about repurposing and reusing, changing the intended desire or use of the garments by reinvigorating them and making them something else. The spirit of entrepreneurship and the desire to succeed is a dream of many, but with any endeavour it is important to appreciate the dichotomy between success and failure. To not take things as they are, enjoy the highs and lows and ultimately appreciate the many paths that this journey could take. A call to preserve when things don’t quite work out, and be nimble to adjust.

The need to be transparent and honest is key, and to ensure that we work sustainably. To truly show that sometimes we over order, we are too ambitious, we don’t have the experience and with that comes learning and growth.

What advice would you give anyone looking to start a career as an independent creative in Sydney?

Be resourceful. You are never going to find yourself with everything you need, as you continue to grow you’ll always want more so be resourceful with what’s around you.

In addition, as an independent it is important to understand that you’re not only creative but also a business persona. It’s so easy to fall into the hole of being creative & without business aptitude it’ll be hard to succeed. It’s definitely not impossible, but it’ll make your life a lot more complicated than it had to be.

Being an independent is hard & there aren’t many resources for support in our current community. It is always important to have a purpose behind what you’re doing as for when everything is going wrong, the only thing that’ll continue to drive you is the purpose you have set for yourself.

 

Special thanks to Josh for taking the time to chat! Follow @k0reanjesus and @fragileminds. Find more info on Fragile Minds here. Find all the pieces from ‘OUR FANTASIES REMAIN’ online from 12pm today on AISON ANDÉR (follow @aison.ander).

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