x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

'Fashion has always played an important part in my life'

Jason Lee Coates, the fashion stylist and buyer for the new Dubai boutique Valleydez, talks about his international life in fashion.

Jason Lee Coates went to school in Sydney and is based in Tokyo.
Jason Lee Coates went to school in Sydney and is based in Tokyo.

Jason Lee Coates, the fashion stylist and buyer for the new Dubai boutique Valleydez, talks about his international life in fashion. When I was growing up, everyone on my mother's side was incredibly stylish. My mum, grandmother and aunt were all amazing dressers. My grandmother had Chanel suits. I would go through her wardrobe and find all her old hats and amazing pieces, and it inspired me. I learnt about fashion and what beauty was, and about amazing quality.

As a child, I was only allowed to wear red, white or blue. I had a very regimented wardrobe but it was always chic. It was all Petit Bateau, little tops and boating shorts. There was a point when I swapped my navy blue shorts for my next-door neighbour's yellow terry towelling hot pants, and I still haven't heard the end of it. I must have been five. I have the photos, but the shorts were horrible. I still can't wear yellow.

My colour palette was chosen for me by my mother, but I could wear whatever I liked from an early age. I don't know if everyone has the same upbringing as I did as far as clothes are concerned, but everything I had matched, so I couldn't make a wrong choice. My favourite outfit was a three-quarter sleeve French blue and white boat-neck T-shirt. I used to wear it all the time with a pair of navy blue shorts.

I wanted to be an ambulance driver when I grew up. I had no idea about the real world, of course. When I started high school, all my friends were interested in fashion, and I became consumed by it. I was buying all the foreign magazines. I bought Jean Paul Gaultier from the age of 14; it really meant a lot to me. It was a gradual thing, but fashion has always played an important part in my life. The older I got, the more important it became, so now it's the number one thing in my life.

I was born in Papua New Guinea, and grew up in Tonga. Then I moved to Australia. I did all my schooling in Sydney. After university I moved to Singapore, where I worked in magazines. I am based in Tokyo now. My favourite outfit at the moment is a great T-shirt from Suvee, a textured cropped jacket from H&M and a pair of treated black waxed jeans from Balmain. The jeans cost 10 times the price of the jacket. I really believe in the mix of high and low. Wearing a head-to-toe look from one brand is pretty spectacular, but you can only do that once, and then it's over. So you need pieces that can mix in with each other. I call it reality wear.

I really like high-end fashion because I like quality. I would rather buy an Alexander McQueen T-shirt for $200 (Dh735), even though I know that's crazy, than a cheaper one. The cheaper one will fall apart after the second wash. It's value per wear. That's not how everyone looks at it, but that's how I look at it. I love vintage shopping, particularly in Paris, and love shopping for hats and accessories. I like shopping for others; it's like looking through my grandmother's wardrobe again. Just looking at the beautiful embroidery, handiwork, the different materials that aren't even used today, it's really inspiring and so much fun. And you don't even have to buy anything. There is also the most amazing vintage store in Tokyo called Nude Trump that is completely hidden away. No one can ever find it. It's just incredible.

I have a major problem with shoes. I have way too many. I am really bad. I love trainers, especially Louis Vuitton and the Puma collaboration with Alexander McQueen. I love Prada and Gucci and Pierre Hardy shoes. And boots. I have way too many boots. I have a theory about shoes, that even if you are having a fat day, you can still fit into the shoes. In Japan you have a shoe cabinet at the front door to put all your shoes in, and I can't do that any more. Mine is overflowing. When people walk into my apartment, they burst out laughing because I have shoe boxes lined up with Polaroid photos on them so I know what's inside. People don't believe anyone does that, but I do.

I also have a lot of bags. I have my Gucci travel bag - supersized, black leather and studded. It's large, heavy and completely impractical, but it's amazing. It's not very good for air travel because it's already over the weight limit before I put anything in it. The bag I am carrying now is a little canvas bag from Givenchy. It's a really handy size. Whenever I travel, I always pack another two bags. Shoes, bags and hats for guys are normal in Japan. My Givenchy has gone everywhere with me: the beach, art galleries, night clubs. It will be with me for years.

? Valleydez is now open at Wafi Mall, Dubai. * Sarah Maisey