It's truly hard to believe that Jeehye Lee, a 2015 Designer of the Year Award nominee, had aimlessly drifted through her studies up until her senior year at Parsons School of Design. In this interview, Jeehye tells us about how in the nick of time, her love of cheerful colors, quilting, and playfulness unexpectedly came together with a Joseon war hero's story to create her graduating thesis collection, NUF.
Interview Gissella Ramirez-Valle, Media Jeehye Lee
Hello! Please introduce yourself and your background.
Jeehye: Hello, my name is Jeehye Lee, a Korean currently living in the United States of America. I moved to Canada when I was 16 years-old by myself. Then I attended the Parsons School of Design in New York and now I’m living in California. I am a very independent person who loves new things and old stuff!
Why did you choose to attend Parsons?
Jeehye: Ever since when I was young, whether it's actually true or not, somehow I've known that Parsons is the best art school in the world. As I got into the school, I had to decide my major, and I heard that fashion design is the most popular path there. So I chose the Fashion Design track, but had I no idea what I was doing through my sophomore and junior years. I studied abroad at Central Saint Martins and that was really enjoyable. It was different there. Even though it a was very short course, I could feel that the education system is totally opposite and I learned alot there.
Has a particular designer served as inspiration?
Jeehye: Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons has been a role model. Not just her collections, but I also love how she runs her company. She has all different types of lines and continuously works with new designers.
Now please, introduce us to your 2015 graduating thesis collection NUF!
Jeehye: YI SUN SIN was the main inspiration. He is a one of the most important and respected Korean war heroes. A movie about YI SUN SIN was released around the time when I was looking for inspiration for my thesis. As he was Korean historical figure, I've been really inspired by Korean historical costumes.
NUF seems to have some modern-hanboks. Did you use hanbok patterns to construct the garments?
Jeehye: I didn’t use Korean traditional patterns directly, but still used some ideas for the pleated skirts and big shaped coats. Korean traditional hanboks are very colorful and they’re kinda boxy but they can be feminine and masculine, too. I think these elements are in my collection, so yeah, I would say that NUF contains some modern hanboks.
What are the elements that make up your design identity?
Jeehye: When I go to a fabric store, I just see so many pretty colors and I’m attracted by them more than black and white. Also, I love playfulness and I think that even our daily-wear can have a level of playfulness. I think that detachable elements are very playful, so I use them in my garments. I have also always liked to do stuffing and quilting. I guess quilting came from my grandmother and my mom. My grandmother loved to make something by hand, just like me. I like to use my hands to touch and create. I think that quilted and stuffed clothing feel better to the touch rather than flat clothing.
Did you do some experimentation for NUF?
Jeehye: This time, I tried marbling to create prints!
Congratulations on NUF being considered for the Parsons Designer of The Year award and showcase at Saks Fifth Avenue!
Jeehye: I'm very thankful for that! Not just winning prizes, but to hear that people like my stuff makes me feel awesome!
What should we expect from you next? Are you thinking of pursuing a masters in fashion design too?
Jeehye: I guess so, but not now, I think what I need now is field experience! Ultimately, I’d like to become a fashion designer/artist who helps to make the world little more colorful and warmer!