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Met Gala 2021 New York Precious Lee
Precious LeePhotography Andrew Tess

Baby’s first Met Ball! Precious Lee on her stunning AREA look

The rising model’s custom crystal look weighed over 35lbs and took a casual 2,850 hours to come together

We might have spent most of the last 18 months in various shades of lockdown, but that hasn’t stopped Precious Lee’s fashion star from ascending to the dizzy heights it’s orbiting at right now. Not only has the rising American model made history on the runway at Versace (and proved herself a Donatella fave by following it up with an ad campaign), she’s also racked up appearances at Moschino, Michael Kors, AREA, and more, and scooped the Breakthrough Model gong at the Fashion Media Awards last week. And now, she’s just added her first ever Met Gala to the list.

Landing on the ivory carpet at last night’s long-awaited comeback event, the model joined forces once more with AREA designers Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk on a showstopping, Swarovski-crystalled-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life minidress that weighed a casual 80lbs. While others failed dismally to stick to the brief – with not a couture-level interpretation of the Statue of Liberty or a star-spangled banner in sight – Lee amped up the glam in a look by two rising designers intent on subverting couture from their NY atelier. The assignment, as the kids say, was very much understood. 

Having sent longtime Dazed collaborator, photographer Andrew Tess, along to New York landmark The Mark Hotel to capture Polaroids of Lee in her look, we also managed to squeeze in a few questions about how the collab came together with both the model and AREA’s two designers.

So Precious, this is your first Met Gala! How did you feel about walking up those iconic steps? 

Precious Lee: Baby’s first MET! It was magical. I loved my look from head to toe – I felt amazing. The screams, so many people calling your name, it’s wild. But I enjoyed every minute. Even when I started to sweat because my dress was about 80lbs – thankfully my team and I thought ahead and brought a handheld fan out. I was excited to get on the carpet and have fun – it’s a flash so I really wanted to soak it all it. And it was also my birthday! 

Oh wow, happy birthday! What a way to celebrate. So how did your dress make you feel? What do you love about it? 

Precious Lee: I felt like a Couture queen. It was fab! I love glamour and taking risks. It was my first Met and I wasn’t playing it safe – that’s such a bore. I wanted to have fun and wear a piece that felt like art – I think sometimes we forget the Gala is in a museum. We’re surrounded by some of the most amazing pieces of art. I love the crystal braided detailing that paid homage to African American hair and my love for braids, the suited shoulder, and of course the classic AREA bling. 

So Beckett, Piotrek – can you talk me through the details of the look? How did it come together, what went into it? 

AREA: The process with Precious was very collaborative. Once we decided we were going to work together we started bouncing ideas back and forth between us and Tiffani Williams, who's Precious’ stylist. There were a few key elements that were important for Precious surrounding the theme of American Fashion that she wanted to incorporate.

Once we nailed the silhouette we started thinking about the embellishment of the piece. We wanted to highlight and celebrate Black style beyond clothing. We started thinking about how the rich history of Black hair has influenced style and fashion and culture through time. We looked at braiding techniques ranging from protective hairstyles to religious hair adornments. We then translated braids using our signature padded crystal cup-chain embroidery technique to wrap Precious’ dress in a zig zag cornrow pattern. We then stitched braids that cascade down the jacket to create a braided fringe hem. 

This whole process was time consuming and laborious – our embroidery partner in India took a total of 2,850 hours to embellish the entire piece in Swarovski crystal cup chain, with 40 skilled craftsmen working on it. Once that all was completed the pieces took about six days to carefully assemble, and weighed approximately 35lbs.

You’ve worked together a lot over the course of the last year or so. Why do you love working with Precious, and why do you think she embodies what AREA is about? 

AREA: We love how real she is, and how she truly enjoys her art. She is an incredible model, which really comes through in the way she takes pictures. She has this radiant energy, and is a modern role model for so many girls and women.

And Precious, why do you love wearing AREA’s clothes? 

Precious Lee: AREA’s designs feel like they’re made especially for you. Everything feels custom. I love the risks they take and the silhouettes that they are known for, but also getting to know them in the atelier, they are hard working, diverse, and crazy talented. They always understand the assignment and aren’t afraid of non-traditional sized bodies. I love them.

Click through the gallery above for more BTS photos of the night.