Jen Lee is one of 12 finalists in this year’s fifth edition of the Parsons x Kering Empowering Imagination design competition, a program that grants its two winners a two-week trip to Kering facilities in Italy, including the Kering Materials Innovation Lab.
Lee was raised in Denver, Colorado, and credits her mother with nurturing her interest in travel, an enthusiasm reflected in a thesis collection that revolves around stamps and the mail system.
Check back daily to learn about her fellow finalists.
When did you know you wanted to be a designer?
As a 20-something, I am constantly trying to figure out who I am as a person and, foremost, as a designer. It wasn’t until my third year at Parsons that I started to find clarity in the way I work and understand what it means to be a designer. I want the footprints I make and the path I take to create meaning and conversations about design and the industry.
Do you have a designer icon?
I love going and seeing new exhibitions of artists in Chelsea, as well as designers who are in stock at Dover Street Market. I admire Phoebe Philo and how she is empowering women through Céline. I’m also a fan of Hussein Chalayan, who has pushed boundaries to reimagine what clothing is.
How do you describe your design aesthetic?
My design aesthetic is clean and detail oriented. I draw inspiration from personal moments in my life. In a way, my process is very much a way to discover my own identity. I try to aim for a sense of timelessness, and I believe that great design comes from subtlety rather than something obvious.
Tell me about your graduation project.
My thesis is about a search for identity through the discovery of my mom’s stamp collection. Her collection is not only an accumulation of stamps, but also the mapping and preservation of moments in my history and society at large. She was able to collect a multitude of stamps with the help of my grandmother, who worked as a librarian at the International Monetary Fund. So in many ways this collection is not only an extension of my mother, but my grandmother as well.
With so many collected stamps, the desire to preserve and archive came to mind. An archive is essentially an empty container until it is animated and filled by the spirit of a person, people, or humanity in general. In what ways can clothing be explored in this same manner? I’m interested in the journey of a stamp and the network of people that a package can encounter.
In the collection, I was able to bring these ideas forward through details such as sealed pockets, my own series of graphic stamps, and bonding methods that represent the sealing of a package or envelope. An extension of my thesis is also a packaging series I created. I have a set: a pair of pants, a skirt, and a shirt that can be sent through the postal system.
Through my thesis I hope to archive the strong female presence in my history, and create a collection that could be viewed as both a traveling object and archival artifact.
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