Fabulous eco-conscious fashion de signer and world traveler Currie Lee graciously took time out of her frantic schedule in the run up to the Mercedes Benz Beijing Fashion Week, to answer some questions for this admirer’s humble blog. I hope you enjoy learning more about this fashion trailblazer as a person and as a designer as much as I did. Without any further frilly ado, I give you Miss Lee. In her own words.
1. A passion for fashion is something that, in my opinion, you’re born with. When and how did you decide this was where your future lied? Who were your earliest inspirations?
“My passion for fashion began with me cutting-up my mother’s couture pieces to recreate “fashion week” with my “Barbie Dolls” starring as the models, to being “dolled-up” herself by her grand mum and mum in skirts and jackets customized to fit her from the fabric of their “up-cycled” vintage tweed, chenille and Chanel suits. Herein, my love for “all things” vintage and black & white is rooted. I got bored of accessories flaunting little more than shockingly oversized logos and decided to revisit my collection of timeless vintage Bottega Veneta clutches inherited from my grand mum and mum, which I had always loved as being exquisite yet discreet. I sought to embody this same sense of an old-world flair from long-gone studio eras into modern-day yet unmatched pieces that a connoisseur immediately sniffs out like a bloodhound, not through their logos but their designs and materials. DimSum of All Things Asian and the essence of my principle in “waste not; want not” springs from my love of all things vintage as well as the many trips, carrying me from minority villages to high-rise filled metropolises.”
2. After thinking and writing about Chinese ‘would-be-designers’ last week, I basically had to ask the chic Miss Eco whether or not her decision to first pursue a career in law had anything ,even remotely, to do with ‘outside’ influences.
“Sigh… it absolutely did!!! From a family of doctors, judges & politicians, and, professors, I was “shamed” into being to quote “at least a lawyer”. I must say as the only family member to pursue design (the next most “creative” person would be my uncle who is a Asian Literature university dean/professor and poet/writer), I am considered “shameful” -designing is still seen as my “hobby”… even some of the Chinese high-society magazines that have featured me have introduced me as “a lawyer (with 2 LL.M.s from Beida and Tsinghua -sigh…) who also designs”. As a child my parents persuaded me to limit my “passion for fashion” to shopping or having our tailor execute any designs I might have!”
(To me, especially as a sinologist, this topic remains mesmerizing. Also, I am more grateful for my pleasantly disturbed parents’ unconditional support of my chasing the fashion dragon with every day that passes.)
3. Obvious question, do forgive me for asking, but after traveling the world like a modern-day Oedipus, why settle in Beijing?
“My mother, in teaching Western medicine, realized its many limitations and thus studied Chinese medicine (she combined the preventative elements of Chinese with restorative elements of Western)… My father and other extended family also loved Chinese literature, art and history… We visited family friends in Beijing in the early 1990s and I fell in love with China (especially Beijing) since then!”
(Oh yes, Beijing definitely has that je ne sais quoi which has lured many of us in.)
4. In short, you have traveled the world and particularly Asia. What would you consider to be your top three of places/people/minorities/etc. that have to some or great extent influenced your fashion and accessory designs?
“Tribes: the Bulang Tribe (in Xishuangbanna, Southern Yunnan). They introduced me to the concept of using skins from animals consumed as food sources. I was presented with a drum made with snake skin -his dinner the night before). Places: Jaipur (in Northern India), for their exquisite eye for detail and palette of gemstone colors. People: the Milanese, for their multi-generational tradition and appreciation of hand-crafted clothing and accessories.”
(I’m sure my bella regazza friend Vale will be very pleased about the latter.)
5. What’s the favorite outfit in your (extensive or Karl-like?) closet?
“Surprisingly my closet is quite sparse… I am quite selective!!! However, it would be: mum’s vintage mink (her university graduation present) + my La Perla black label LBD (before La Perla’s dress designer passed away) + grand mum’s multi-string of black & white sea pearls + my D-SATA snakeskin pill box hat + my YSL eel skin stilettos + either mum’s vintage cake-box shaped Moschino bag OR D-SATA’s black tortoise + white oyster shell + bronze minaudiere.”
(The description of the outfit alone made this heel-obsessed-woman’s mouth water.)
6. I think fashion allows people to portray their personalities to the outside world and as well make them feel beautiful, boost their confidence. What do you think fashion can ‘do’ for people?
“I believe fashion (just as money does) accentuates a person’s existing character. Loud & showy people dress ostentatiously and tend to “status shop”… Polite & proper people dress graciously and are conscious of the people, time and place. As a child, my grand mum and mum would remove labels from their Chanel suits or Christian Dior dresses so as to not seem “insensitive”… in South Korea, such brands were not available as the economy was still struggling. As such, they believed it would be vulgar to be ostentatious and flaunt that they were able to own (albeit very few) such collections.”
(I would strongly urge some people to take a leaf out of her (grand-) mother’s book. Besides, as the old Dutch saying goes: Al draagt een aap een gouden ring, het is en blijft een lelijk ding. Rough translation: even if a monkey is wearing a golden ring, it’s still an ugly thing. The monkey that is.)
7. What are your current future dreams for D-SATA?
“I would LOVE to be able to create a collective of women (cottage industries) and preserve some of the traditional woven or embroidered materials (and methods) that are at risk of dying out in the many tribes (China has officially 56+ recognized) across China.”
(I think even Van Noten and Kemperman could learn a thing or two from their techniques. Also, the eclectic palette of colors and patterns used by these minorities are a joy for the eye and should indeed be kept alive!)
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Currie for doing this interview even though her time was very limited! All I can say is: you are an inspiration to me in numerous ways and I am positive the Chinese and international catwalks will be hearing more and more from D-SATA and its unique vision in the years to come!