We connected with photographer and menswear influencer Anthony Lee of style site The Alps, drawn by his clean lines, minimal styling and beautifully curated Instagram feed. Selecting some of his favourite pieces from the AIDA menswear collection, we asked him to style and shoot them in his own way - a satisfyingly desaturated and purposefully spacious aesthetic.
Here we talk about his style and influences, life as a professional creative, and moving away from London to Liverpool.
How would you describe your site, The Alps, to someone who was new to your work?
It's becoming more of a professional portfolio these days, more about showcasing what I can do as a photographer, and a menswear enthusiast / influencer. Originally it started out as a regular blog about my life and the stuff I wore. A lot of people ask why I called it the Alps as well, and it literally just stands for Anthony Lee Photography and Style. I remember how chuffed I was the day I made that up. Searching forever for a good blog name!
Workspace - photography by Anthony Lee
Tell us about your journey from studying to your current professional identity as a photographer/influencer. Was it hard to find the path you're now on, and to define yourself and your work?
So it's actually pretty interesting - what I'm doing at the moment, I never fully studied any of it. I started out in Fine Art, I guess it was my excuse to not make any decisions and to do whatever the hell I wanted (stay indoors for an entire year and play Xbox). After my first year in Fine Art, I decided to move to Sound Art & Design instead. I was making more music at the time so it seemed like a good idea, plus you can actually get a 'real' job out of it. Photography was always just a hobby through this - I had a little DSLR, I think it was a Canon 700D. Kit lens, the usual. I just used it to document art stuff. I didn't actually get into the whole influencer / photographer thing until I met my girlfriend, Lauren. She was blogging at the time and had asked me to shoot a couple of photos for her. One thing led to another and I found myself shooting whenever I could, as much as possible. To be honest, my uni life really suffered, but I was getting into my photography and I definitely couldn't switch courses again. As for the menswear side of things, I've always tried to look my best. It sounds pretty bleak but growing up there weren't many Asian kids at my school, so getting a love life was pretty tough! I dressed to trends and tried to stay ahead of the curve to get noticed, and then I just found I liked it. It wasn’t until after uni that I really started to develop as a professional. I was facing the question "what do I want to do now?". I'd been following guys like Oliver Hooson and Matt Buckets, and was like, well that's the dream isn't it? Doing what they love, full time, and getting to work with some of the coolest brands around. So that's the end goal here.
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What are some of the challenges you face in being a professional creative?
Mainly just being a little late to the party I think, I've started this whole 'career' quite late in the game, everyone's established and has their own unique style. I find it absurdly difficult to get noticed, and really just find a style that can help me stand out from the crowd.
Architecture - Photography by Anthony Lee
How do you find being based in Liverpool after living in London? What are some of the positives? And do you feel it negatively impacts your work and network at all?
Ah man, being in Liverpool is a dream, I mean compared to London. I live less than 10 minutes walk from the city centre and am paying around half the rent I did in London. So that's a BIG pro. Money goes so much further up north, which lets me spend what I have to spare and invest in being an influencer / photographer - lenses and cameras are super expensive. Also the current job I have allows me a lot of free time to go out and shoot outfits or stay in for a day and do flat lays. A very chilled lifestyle to say the least. In terms of networking and opportunities I do feel that London wins there, I mean it's the centre of it all isn't it? After living there for 5 years and seeing all there is to do, you appreciate it when it's gone. That being said, I've made some incredible connections with other influencers since moving up north, I think mostly down to having all this time to focus my energy and fully put my head down. And to be honest, Liverpool is only 2 hours train away from London - that's pretty much any Londoner’s travel time into work on a bad day!
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Where do you look for style and creative inspiration?
So this one's pretty difficult, I feel like I'm spilling all my secrets! To begin with I looked at other influencers, what were they wearing, what did I like most about a particular outfit? And then that moved onto the brands, what brands were they wearing? What brands could I even afford? What haven't I heard of or seen before. So that's how it started - I kind of just absorbed as much information as possible and made my decisions later. Now I've become way more picky, I've sunk into a little comfortable rut where I know what my style is and I know what I like. I'll normally go to the classics for inspiration, END Clothing, Nitty Gritty, Carhartt WIP, APC, Goodhood, Converse. You know, just do a bit of window shopping, see what's new in and make outfits based on what I currently own.
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How do you feel social media and Instagram in particular has helped your work? Are there any drawbacks to it, or ways you struggle with it?
To be honest, Instagram is where I gain most of my engagement from, I think it's my first point of contact with most brands. So in that way, for me, it’s been really helpful in getting my work out there. But then again, as I mentioned earlier, it's about getting noticed. There are so many influencers out there these days with 20k+ followings, although not all are legitimate. And I think brands are all still reading the numbers so smaller bloggers like myself don't get as much coverage or notice under the shadow of these giant influencers. It's a tricky platform to master, but once the ball gets rolling, then you're all set.
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What does an average day look like for you? What are some of your favourite spots to work or hang out in Liverpool, and/or in London?
Hmmm, I think it definitely starts with a coffee and feeding the rabbit. I'll sit at my desk from 8 to 10, answer emails, check up on my favourite shops to see what's new and of course, smash out a few Youtube videos. Then I'll try and get outside - I always try to force myself to get ready and go outside, even if it's just for a walk. I like exploring and finding new places, I always carry my camera with me just incase. As for spots, I'm a big fan of the coffee shop culture, a lot of the new coffee shops popping up have some serious interior goodness that I just love to shoot. I'll always hit up Cow & Co in Liverpool, it's just across the road from my flat so it's normally my first stop of the day. Then there's Cheese and Co, the best toasties in town (in my opinion).
As for London, most of my hangouts were around Shoreditch, I used to work in the Le Labo there so became very familiar with the other stores and coffee spots around. I mean, if Le Labo did coffee in their stores as well, it'd be the perfect hangout. Obviously you guys at AIDA are on the list, clothes and coffee? What more could I ask for. I would often find myself downstairs in the menswear section whilst my girlfriend finished off her rose latte. I mainly go by the interiors for my spots, if it’s bright, comfortable and stylish it makes me super comfortable and I just love to chill in those kinds of environments.
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And just one for us, market research :) - How did you first find out about AIDA?
The girlfriend, definitely. Lauren is an Instagram detective. I think she came across a picture of one of your rose lattes one day and was like "WE HAVE TO GO HERE"... The rest is history haha!