Zoe Lee is a middle child born in Toronto in 1978, Canada to a Japanese mother Kazuyo who is a textile fine artist and her Canadian father Robert who is a lawyer. The family moved to Hong Kong, Japan and China throughout Zoe’s childhood. Zoe spent the majority of her teenage years and onwards in the UK and Europe. Zoe graduated in 2002 from Central St Martins College of Art London with a 1st Class Honor in Fashion Womenswear and Print. During her 5 years at St Martins Zoe took a year off to work full time at Alexander McQueen. Many of the materials for her final degree collection were sponsored by the McQueen studio. Zoe also worked at Jessica Ogden, Hussein Chalayan, and others during her time as a student at St Martins. Zoe graduated from the Royal College of Art London MA Fashion Womenswear specialising in Footwear in 2004. Zoe went straight from the RCA to Vivienne Westwood where she spent 3 years designing footwear, bags and accessories for both the Italian and Japanese collections. Zoe worked as a consultant from 2007 to 2012 for a variation of British designers such as, Betty Jackson, Erdem, Basso and Brooke, Toast, Te Casan and French Connection all the while gaining experience working with factories in Italy, Spain, India, and Istanbul. In 2012, Zoe launched Zoe Lee shoes FW12 in London along with business partner Elena Degl’Innocenti who had worked alongside Zoe for 4 years as the product developer for Toast UK. Zoe moved to Paris in 2013 and opened the first Zoe Lee shop in the Marais. (19 Rue du Parc Royal, Paris 75003). Zoe became full time in Paris in 2014, setting up her studio in the 18th arrondissement of Paris.
When and how you decided that you wanted to be a designer?
Probably in my late teens. I was interested in painting I remember doing a study on a portrait of a lady called Mme Moitessier painted by Ingres. It got me thinking of the context of her attire in her day and what it meant. I wondered what the equivalent was in modern/today and it’s importance now. It sparked my interest in clothes as being more then just garments we wear. Footwear came a little later when I realised I was more interested in the craft or artisanal aspects of design.
It was your dream job?
I dont think I have a dream job but am happy with being a shoe designer. I would love to go into ceramics at some point….
Which is the first thing you designed and for who ?
Probably a dress for myself as a child. My mother sewed a lot and we made dresses for me and my friends.
Who’s the designer you admire the most and why?
I admire lots of designers for different reasons…. But I am not good at keeping up with whats going on, I have no natural interest in current fashions. I have a good friend who has a Danish label called Agger and I love what she does. She is a master editor… the opposite to myself.
Who’s your muse, your icon, when you create a dress?
My mother Kazuyo is very important to my shoes. Except the high heels (she had a hip replacement recently and would wear them if she could) she can make my shoes look wonderful. My woman has a good imagination and is brave……
If you had to design an entire collection using just one colour, which is the one you’d pick and why?
White, sorry I dont think thats a colour…
Who’s the first person you show your sketches to?
The fabric you love the most…silk, lace, velvet and why?
Leather. Currently I am loving goat from a french tannery that I recently discovered.
If your clothes had a soundtrack, which songs you’d choose?
I ve been listening to Leonard Cohen, I was sad that he passed away…
Do you have any trick to avoid that “blank page” moment when you’re at the beginning of the designing of a new collection? Do you watch a movie, flip an old magazine…
I go to leather trade fairs.
If you weren’t a designer which job in the fashion world you would like to do and why?
I dont think I could handle being anything but a designer in the fashion world. I ‘d change career entirely and become a potter in the countryside…..