One on One With Amanda Lew Kee
Fresh out of Ryerson University’s acclaimed Fashion Design program, Amanda Lew Kee has established herself as one to watch in the Canadian fashion industry. After having the opportunity to attend Amanda’s private A/W 2010 collection preview on May 31st, I had to interview her.
CC: You’ve been labeled one of the few Canadians designers who are at an international level, first congratulations, second what got you to this level? Education, internships, training, passion?
ALK: Thanks, it feels great to receive such strong support within the industry. I wouldn’t consider myself at any specific level in ‘the game’ or anywhere close to where I hope to be in the near future. I believe that education, dedication and support are major factors that have helped me develop a technical foundation of design while allowing to discover my individual sense of style. I have also established a strong group of creative friends who have pushed me to my greatest potential while giving their honest opinions. I owe a big thanks to my design professor, Anne Hung, for supporting my vision of all black, see through fabrics, and raw edged leathers.
CC: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
ALK: I design pieces that I would wear myself, such as the raw edged Nappa leather jackets from my A/W 2010 collection as well as the heavily studded pieces, then pair these main fashion items with basics that fall within the seasonal trend, such as the basic mesh tops and plain wet-look leggings. For my A/W 2010 collection I pulled inspiration from the death and decay within reconstruction, exploring the basic and adorned through natural and artificial aesthetics, and played with the diminishing line between gender and sex. I was really interested in the irony of the world falling into disrepair and decline in contrast with the increase of self-indulgence and consumption.
Models in Amanda’s A/W2010 collection.
CC: Where do you see your career in 10 years?
ALK: In ten years I see myself designing from London or New York and selling within global markets. I don’t like to set expectations but this I am determined to accomplish though I am very thankful for where my hard work has taken me only a month out of University.
CC: You use a lot of black, do you think we’ll see more colour in upcoming collection?
ALK: For the A/W 2010 collection I used a minimal pallet to emphasize the contrast of textures and weights of the fabrics as well as the shapes and proportions. As my debut collection I wanted my technical design and craftsmanship to standout. A lot of peers did not agree with this choice but I would not have designed the collection any different. As for upcoming collections, you will have to wait and see!
CC: What’s a typical day in your life?
ALK: I wake up, read and respond to emails for a good few hours, scroll through my favourite design blogs, and then I get ready for my day, which consists of either meeting with stylists who pull for photo shoots, buyers, suppliers, or lunch with friends. This month I will be working on my spring collection, so I will be doing a lot of drafting and sewing. In the evening I go out, often with a handful of business cards. Through networking I have met great people who I have receive helpful advice from. I try to push myself forward each day learning and accomplishing at a moderate pace.
Amanda (middle) with two models
CC: You state in your website bio that you plan on working in fashion overseas – why not stay in Canada?
ALK: Canada is a very multicultural country and is great for many reasons but I feel that I must move to a city that is known for fashion and design, such as London or New York, in order to be inspired at levels that Canada does not have to offer. Toronto is a great city and will always be home but I feel that I need a change of scenery after spending my whole life here. I want to be recognized on a larger scale.
CC: What kind of person do you see wearing your clothing?
ALK: I consider my designs lifestyle based rather than age and sex specific. Someone who is confidant, modest and looking for a unique standout piece. I would love to see Carine Roitfeld or Daphne Guinness wear one of my leather pieces, one day.
Studded leggings : A must-add to my wardrobe!
CC: I’ve been told that you hand-make all of your clothing, is this true?
ALK: For my debut collection, all 22 pieces were made in my personal studio by yours truly. As my graduating thesis collection, students were given the choice to contract and source out the construction of the garments but I chose to craft them myself to further develop my technical skills and receive the full experience of producing a large collection (5 outfits were required, I designed 18 garments and added 4 after graduating). Currently I am looking into the manufacturing of my next collection to produce larger orders.
CC: Do you have any advice for young fashion designers in Toronto?
ALK: The hours of tedious work and fast competitive industry isn’t often expected by young aspiring fashion designers. I would advice to find your passion and pursue it. It is often not what you want but how badly you want it. Studying at Ryerson University I have learnt a lot of business and technical skill. It is great to know that I have a Bachelor of Design in Fashion, feels more official.
CC: If you could choose anybody living or dead, who would your dream muse be?
ALK: I have always had a strange fascination for strong established women in couture. I absolutely admire Daphne Guinness for her iconic style, appreciation for haute couture, and confidant attitude making 7″ heels look elegant in a majestic manner. She holds many characteristics that I wish to acquire over years to come.
Fashion designers are often criticized for dreaming and living in fantasy; but it’s the “dreaming” that brings motivation and pushes designers forward. With a plan of going international, incredible technical abilities and a clear vision, it won’t be a surprise to see Amanda in the international fashion scene in the future.
Daphne, I hope you’re reading this!
Visit Amanda’s website at www.amandalewkee.com. If you want to buy Amanda Lew Kee pieces, visit the girls at JacFlash on Queen West.