Dana Lee Wants to Reinvent Your Casual Wardrobe — You Should Let Her

Often it’s the simplest things that are hardest to pull off. Think modern art, the perfect steak, those monks that spend a lifetime cross-legged in a cave trying to attain transcendence. Simple is tough. Simple is daring.

So no, we’re not advocating that you dress like a monk (even if their outfits are comfy and warm.) But injecting some simplicity into your wardrobe can be a revolutionary act. Too often “casual” can be seen as a crutch — a slippery slope that leads to sweatpants caked in Cheetos dust. But done right, there’s no reason that casual can’t be as suave as a suit. All it takes is a few high-quality basics, one or two guiding principles, and some confidence, because the success of a pared-down outfit is commensurate with how little it appears you tried. The stakes are high. The rewards are higher.

Thankfully, men that don’t want to be casualties of casual can turn to Vancouver-bred, LA-based designer Dana Lee for guidance. Her eponymous brand specializes in clean and simple, unfussy but tailored pieces in a range of soft hues. From tees and button downs to sweaters and chinos, she’s got you covered top to bottom.

“With a really simple, unembellished garment, you can wear it with a lot of different things, integrate it into your wardrobe for years,” she says. Her fascination with straightforward fashion began in the dim back corners of Army & Navy and Eaton’s in downtown Vancouver, where as a shy teenager she browsed rows of deadstock racks alongside shuffling pensioners. “Just me and a bunch of old ladies,” she recalls fondly. “It’s a shame that they don’t exist anymore.” She was referring to the stores, but, more than likely, it’s also true for her senior shopping partners.

Young Dana cherished the gems she found like old uniforms, scrubs, and coveralls. Inspired by their utilitarian design, she’d alter and integrate them into her daily wardrobe. She kept the habit up through high school and into a fashion design program at Vancouver’s Kwantlen University, where she incorporated that simplicity into her own designs. “There were no frills,” she says of her pieces. “You can do more with them and not have things look so contrived.”

The narrower breadth of men’s fashion, with its slimmer range of essentials, was a perfect fit for her stripped-back philosophy, allowing her to focus on the details she found most essential. Her line is stocked with staples in leisurely tones: clean henleys with contrast sleeves, a wide range of button-downs that all pair equally well with her relaxed walking shorts in fair weather or a classic black mackintosh in foul. And fear not, aspiring peacocks. There’s the occasional flair piece, too, like a midcentury-inspired tropical button-down with a squiggly yellow print, a highlight she includes in nearly every collection with varying patterns and colours.

Dana Lee

This month Dana is releasing an all-star lineup of her past and current seasons, indispensable basics, all in white, like her Double Needle tees and tank tops, twill-sleeved tees, tropical shirts and smart chinos. More chromatic customers can browse her earlier collections online to mix in some colour.

Dana’s pieces are meant to be worn, washed, repeat. She’s got no time for fuss. “The guys that have always captured my attention are natural, effortless,” she says. It’s the difference between looking good and knowing it, and looking good without giving a damn. So let Dana do the heavy-lifting in your quest for casual success: style begins with simplicity, and with a couple of her pieces in your closet, you’ll be well on your way.

Lookbook/Product Images Courtesy of Dana Lee
Designer Portrait by Grady Mitchell