Phantasmagorical fashionista and equestrian extraordinaire, Mary Lee learnt her tricks of the trade outside the classroom. Whilst most kids would be hanging out at the beach for the summer she’d be living with a tribe in Botswana. Adventure runs in her blood and her latest trip brought her right into the lap of The Yak.
Images: Julia Comita. Mary Lee portraits: Anthony Dodds. Words: Jack Taylor.
Escaping a snowed-in New York landed you in Bali, why here?
Besides Bali being absolutely stunning, I have a genius network of friends here that I wanted to spend time and collaborate on projects with.
You’re no stranger to travel, when did you start exploring the world?
My life has always been an adventure. I was raised with a mother that believed in extreme travel over a typical educational system.
So you had a pretty unconventional upbringing, how do you think that shaped you?
We would go live with tribes in Africa for months at a time and I feel that it shaped me immensely. Overall though I like to think in the present and keep every day as formative as the rest.
You rode in the Mongol Derby, the longest and hardest horse race in the world, and came fifth out of 48 riders! What was your toughest moment and what does horse milk wine really taste like?
The hardest moment was when I was in first place and headed to the largest mountain pass of the race.
My horse then flipped over from a gopher hole and took off 20 kilometers the wrong way, leaving me horseless. I then had to head back to a past horse station, grab another horse to re-ride the route again. Another challenge was the food, which was either horse, yak, or lamb meat and at times was hairy, fatty and uncooked. The fermented horse milk called Airag was not pleasant either and tasted like rotten chunky milk. Overall though it was an incredibly challenging experience that pushed me in ways I never expected.
Besides riding horses, you design some pretty far-out fashion too through your brand and site, TwistedLamb. How was that born?
I needed a channel to show my artistic direction and to showcase others who inspired me so I created a blog, which is what TwistedLamb was originally.
What about the name, how did you come up with it?
The name stems from my name, Mary and the nursery rhyme, “Mary’s little lamb.” Add a twist and there you have it.
Can you describe the aesthetic of your creations in just one word?
It’s tough to pinpoint just one aesthetic of my work but if I had to use a few words to describe it I would say dark, surreal and futuristic. I like to switch it up and push myself into new genres and create combinations of styles that haven’t coexisted before.
Where does the darkness in your fashion come from?
From my heart. To me darkness in the world is more beautiful and realistic than the lighter side of beauty. However one cannot have darkness without light and there is always a balance of the two.
Do any mind-altering substances play a part?
Let’s just say it’s not beer that inspires me.
What about influences, where do you find inspiration when dreaming up your next idea?
I’m inspired by the creative network of friends who surround me; also by tribes from around the world; people who don’t give a damn what society thinks of them; Alexander McQueen . . . and late nights on the dance floor.
Have you drawn any inspiration from the dark side of this island?
There is a lot of magic that occurs and it’s impossible not to feel it on a daily basis.
You’ve worked with artists like Kanye West and Lady Gaga, to name just a couple. Have you ever shocked a client with your vision for a project?
Not as much these days, but in the beginning there were a few times I was asked to create stories that had nothing to do with my aesthetic. However, any work is a welcome challenge, even if it doesn’t fit who I am as an artist.
You were also one of the first fashion stylists to create digital clothing collections for video games. What do you think the future holds for virtual fashion?
It’s just the beginning for virtual goods. Technology like Oculus Rift will take us further into the digital world and create a society where virtual reality will be the ultimate fantasy, filled with everything a human could want, including goods such as digital clothing.
In your latest project, IceBound [featured here], you explored even more new ground for yourself, how did that go?
IceBound was the first time I showed my work outside the digital realm and in a gallery. It was a collaboration between photographer Julia Comita and myself.
With the saturation of online images in today’s world, we wanted people to experience the art of creative direction and photography through large scale photographs and to create an experience where all the senses were felt inside a gallery space. Also, we wanted to show the arc of a storyline within photography. With IceBound it was a story of seduction told though the combination of extreme sport and gender-bending fetish-based fashion.
If you could choose any project, had carte blanche and money was no object, what would you do?
Great question! I would dive with Narwhales while wearing couture…
Thanks for talking to The Yak!