Stylites interviews Currie LeeCurrie Lee opened D-Sata, a store in Beijing, carrying her creations, which include colorful party purses and card holders, made of snake and frog skin, and chunky necklaces made from water buffalo horns, to name a few.
Should you be labeled a Westerner?
I am a Westerner on paper. I have a Canadian passport, am licensed to practice law in the U.S., and have an Italian marriage certificate, but I remain at heart Asian. I was raised and educated in the West but my parents sent me to a private South-Korean boarding school after an embarrassing visit by the South Korean ambassador when it was revealed that my sister and I could neither read nor write Korean and the little Korean we spoke was elementary at best.
What from Asia especially attracts you? Discuss your trips.
What attracts me about Asia is not only its diverse history but also its culture and infusion of influences from the West, from the metropolises of Seoul, Tokyo, and Beijing to the tribal or minority villages of Southeast Asia. Though I am bare faced and bare footed when hand selecting the materials for my collections during my visits to minority and tribal villages, i am much inspired by the timelessness in the materials or methods used (for example T’nalak from the T’boli Tribe… it is a traditional method of hand weaving and hand dyeing that is from even before my grandmum’s time yet more exquisite in its color and intricate in its weave than most other fabrics…). Natural over synthetic… and hand made over factory made.
Stylites: How do you define Asian style?
Modern Asian style tends to be more about status, but my definition of Asian style is to infuse traditional materials and methods with more contemporary designs.
What made you decide to switch from being a lawyer to a free style designer?
It was a change… I’ve always designed my own clothing and accessories (and for my close friends and family) but never had the courage to change careers until I met a girlfriend who was an editor at Vogue and now is flown around on corporate jets as a brand manager… She, upon viewing my collections, told me I have a natural gift and to do something with it!
Of course, my husband and mum have been so absolutely supportive.
How did you come up with the slogan “RE-uSe, don’t AbUSe!!!”?
Everything that has been made was made to be used for something and by someone… and I believe it is abusive to the person who created it to merely discard it with absolute disregard …someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure. The Chenille Chanel suit that my grandmum could no longer wear due to mothballs was fashioned into my favorite little peacoat as a little girl!
It is so difficult to be consistent in only using natural or recycled materials (most of my natural materials are also indirectly recycled). Some designs I have been unable to execute due to the unavailability of natural or upcycled materials usable… however, with the diversity of materials naturally available and those being wasted in turn inspire designs themselves… so there has never been a want for new designs!