In Conversation with Katherine Lee
Fashion Designer & Founder,
Claret Rondel, Los Angeles-USA
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am from Los Angeles. I studied fashion design from Otis College of Art and Design. Then I flew to Italy to study handbags. I had experience in women’s contemporary pattern making. It was very interesting to study handbags because everything has to be so precise when you’re doing handbag pattern making. That got me hooked on. Therefore I started doing handbag designs. Because I didn’t have any background in business, I felt like I need to study more fashion business, so I went to London to study fashion business.
Which past experiences would you say have shaped your work, design sensibilities, & aesthetic?
Ever since I was a little girl I’ve been creative in my own way. I spent a lot of time in my father’s workshop. My father has been in the leather industry for many years. I would play around in his workshop, making myself a leather flower or toy to keep myself going. I would make little pizzas to feed my Barbies. I loved creating my own stuff. I would make something creative. Also, I was in the fashion industry for so many years and I learnt so much from it.
What is your personal philosophy in life?
My personal philosophy is that you learn more from failure than your success. Don’t let it stop you. A lot of people are afraid of failure, but I would say don’t be. Failure builds character and I love challenging myself. There are consequences that follow but it allows the journey to be tough. Sometime it can be a motivation to keep going.
How would you define your personal style?
I love to be comfortable but still look chic and sophisticated. Once you hit 30s, you gradually start searching for comfortable items to wear and you still want to look good. You can’t walk around in super high heels anymore all day long. When you’re in 20s you can do that. So I make pieces that are not too complicated and easy to carry around.
What inspires your work?
My inspiration comes from everywhere and everything I’m surrounded by. Born in Korea, raised in California and my precious time that I spent in Europe to study handbags and business had the most impact. So multi-cultural elements are rooted within me and are often reflected in my work.
What is your vision for your work?
I believe in the power of fashion to provide confidence to people. We stand for individuality by using our platform to encourage each individual to be their true self. So being a brand that supports the slow fashion movement, we create fashion, myth, love, and integrity investing our products to consider social and environmental awareness with more sustainable process, trusting quality and lasting products. So, slow fashion is more timeless, purposeful, and intentional. A lot of people confuse between slow fashion, sustainability, and ethical fashion. Using leather I can’t be ethical because it uses animal skin, but I can still be a part of the slow fashion movement.
Who are your favorite designers?
I love Dries Van Noten and Christian Dior. Noten's collections are very artful. He has this intelligence to play with colors and prints and always has this artful quality to his pieces. Every collection is meticulously created and has harmonious narrative. He’s so great with story-telling.
What is your favorite travel destination and why?
I’m deeply in love with Paris, Italy and London. I honestly can’t choose between them. There are so many depending on what I want to be inspired by. Museums, art shows, boutiques and galleries all around Europe, getting out there and seeing what is happening in the world of design is so valuable. There is so much inspiration to be found.
What is your favorite activity that motivates & inspires you?
I love to visit museums, it is my passion. As an artist and designer, I want to be consistently educating my eyes and challenging myself. So I’m always looking to grow as a designer and a business person. So sometimes just chatting with different people around the world inspires me to do it. As I’m spending time with them, listening to their stories and past experiences, I find them really valuable. I loved the Louvre in Paris, and when I was in London I loved going to the small exhibitions.
Tell us something about your brand.
Multi-culturalism is at the heart of Claret Rondel. Honoring tradition and innovation is integral. Each collection is inspired by the mixture of American heritage and European energy creating the brand aesthetic with an unconventional character. The brand expands on individuality by offering iconic designs and sharing an interesting story behind it. I feel like story telling is most important. No matter what you do, the process and design, everything has to be one story.