Edeline Lee Fashion On Identity Politics & Sustainability

[6 MINUTE READ]

Happy Friday everyone and welcome back to another interview. With Summer winding down and the September Issue of Vogue already taking up space on our breakfast table, we can’t help but start looking towards Autumn/Winter Fashion for our inspo. After all, as much as we are Summer babies through and through, Autumn/Winter is basically Christmas in the fashion world.

Who better to talk to this week then than Edeline Lee? Edeline Lee is the self-made fashion designer and founder of the eponymously named brand. In this week’s interview, Edeline talked to us about everything from identity politics and sustainability to her current obsession piece. So for some Autumn/Winter Fashion inspo, just brew up a coffee and keep on reading...

Morning Edeline! Could you begin by telling me a bit about your childhood and how you feel that has influenced you today?

I was born in Canada and am of Korean descent. Fashion wasn’t really part of my upbringing. Clothes served only practical use in my family. I grew up hiking, camping and skiing in Canada, which was wonderful, but very far from the world of fashion. Fashion was a tool that I discovered when I was young; it was how I came to find my own identity and individuality, separate from my background.

Wow. It is unusual that someone comes to fashion completely fresh. Often the passion stems from a mother or grandmother’s passion. So how did you get your foot in the industry?

I studied in the UK at Central Saint Martins and have worked in fashion in the US, France and Italy so, my cultural background is mixed. I think many feel this way in today’s world. There are more commonalities and connections than there are differences between women of different cultures.  

I completely agree with that. So when and why did you decide to start up Edeline Lee Fashion?

Femininity is a huge part of my purpose. The question I am always posing to myself is this: “how does a woman dress with power and authority while maintaining their femininity?” I do not believe that the two should be mutually exclusive.  

"Clothing is identity politics – which self do you want to put forward?" 

Absolutely not! And what does fashion mean to you?

Trends are just an expression of the zeitgeist, which has its time and place if you want to look like a news story.  For me, I always prefer to focus on the purpose of clothing. Clothing is identity politics – which self do you want to put forward? Clothing is armour – are you prepared for all the events of your day? Clothing is sensual – what is next to your skin is so integral to how you feel.

Definitely. You can make yourself feel a certain way by how you dress. What strategies have been key to the success of Edeline Lee Fashion?

Most often in fashion, you see people going for an exponential growth curve. I am taking the scenic route, I guess. I like that the business is growing organically and sustainably. 

On the creative side of things, each season we improve and develop our cut. Each proposition that we make for fabric and detail is developed months in advance. As an independent designer, each proposition has to be proven before you commit to presenting it. It would not only be wasteful, but we would be out of business fairly quickly if we flung out ideas without thinking them through. Ultimately, I want women to keep these pieces in their closets and wear them over and over; passing them down to their daughters.

That is really lovely. That should be the goal of more brands; slow and sustainable fashion. What is your favourite thing about having started Edeline Lee Fashion?

I’m kind of playing with breaking or changing how fashion presentation is done; I find that really inspiring in my practice and in my work. Since the beginning, I’ve been exploring the use of narrative in immersive presentation. 

For AW20, I collaborated with award-winning director Josie Rourke. We made a series of choreographed vignettes at the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. Theo James and Rebecca Trehearn narrated and pastiched historic, literary descriptions of women, which slowly transitioned into feminist statements. It was really beautiful.

That sounds epic and right up my street! What’s the best part of your job?

We are doing constant fittings in the studio with our private clients. I love playing dress-up with women and figuring out what works best for them. The clothes are just an abstract idea until a real woman’s personality brings them to life. It’s very life-affirming as a designer to witness your designs coming to life. It also means that I get real-time feedback on the designs and that progresses them.

That sounds like an awesome way of working. Why do you think people are more conscious of the fabrics they wear nowadays? And does sustainability factor into Edeline Lee Fashion?

Absolutely. We all have a responsibility to do our best with sustainability in fashion. It’s a step-by-step process and you really have to do the research on each element, as there is a lot of green-washing out there right now.  

We’ve now transitioned all of our outerwear, wool and cotton to sustainable alternatives. Additionally, all of our linings, labels, interlinings, shipping and packaging are now sustainable. Simply by virtue of being a small, independent company based in England, we are already ethically structured. Everything we create is made by hand by craftsmen in England.  All of our fabrics - even the ones that are not made of sustainable fibres - are woven in small family-owned mills in Italy and France.

You’re really doing the work. That’s brilliant! What’s your absolute favourite piece that you have ever created?

Right now, I’m really loving the Edeline Lee dress Alexandria. It’s super comfortable, it has pockets, hides all flaws and looks completely polished.

It’s so gorgeous! I love the orange colour. What were your biggest challenges in starting up Edeline Lee?

There were many challenges but I try not to dwell on them. If you challenge yourself to do the things you fear, you soon realise that fear is an absolute waste of time and energy. Once you break down that barrier, you can focus on fulfilling your purpose.

"Women are more powerful now; freer, stronger, more aware, and more capable than any other time in history."

That is such a great way of looking at challenges. What makes an Edeline Lee dress stand out?

At the end of the day, fashion is a craft, and the craftsmanship becomes apparent when you actually wear the piece. That is why I believe that shopping on the Internet, although convenient, can be deceptive. We make everything here in London because I like to know the hands that cut, sew, drape, press and finish our pieces. I feel that clothing takes on a soul… I mean, doesn’t the dress your mother handed down to you have a soul? Something that is beautifully made with love, takes on that spirit.

Yes, it does! It has a history, and personality because of what it has been through with that person. So, what inspires you?

The Future Lady is an idea that I made up to encompass the woman that I am designing for. Female identity is in flux in our generation. Modern women live hectic, collaged lives. We can’t automatically subscribe to the identities that have been laid out for us historically. Women are more powerful now; freer, stronger, more aware, and more capable than any other time in history. Yet, we still have a ways to go before we fulfil our true potential. I’m inspired by asking myself: “How does the Future Lady dress? What is it to dress with true power, grace, beauty and dignity in today's world?”

Women tell me that they feel like a better version of themselves in an Edeline Lee dress and that makes me really happy.

I imagine that is really special to hear! Moving onto your day-to-day life, would you say that you have a work/life balance?

My work is my life. I enjoy it so much that it doesn’t feel like work to me. I feel very lucky!

Good for you! What words do you live by?

My dad always told me that if you ever feel overwhelmed, just write a list and complete anything on the list. I still use that technique to get myself going when there just seems to be too much to do.

I do a similar thing! Thanks so much for chatting Edeline Lee. I can't wait to see what you do next!

Like what you read? Head to Edeline Lee to shop now!

Alternatively, if you fancy checking out some of our previous interviews, you can find them here. Want more from CAROLINAGMX? Check this out: Our Review of Neutrogena Clear & Soothe

Photos in this article:

1. Edeline Lee AW20 Presentation by Toby Shaw

2. Edeline Lee AW20 Presentation by Mona Cordes

3. Edeline Lee AW20 Presentation by Nick Payne Cook

4. Edeline Lee AW20 Presentation by Toby Shaw

5. Edeline Lee AW20 Presentation by Amelia Lourie

6. Edeline Lee AW20 Presentation by Amelia Lourie

7. Edeline Lee AW20 Presentation by Toby Shaw

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Gabriela - Editor
Gabriela - Editor

Gabriela is a London-based writer and creative, currently working in marketing. Her favourite skincare product is Darphin’s Ideal Resource Youth Retinol Oil Concentrate.

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