During our interview, Jeremyn points out: “My thesis became a reflection on how I came to reclaim Chinese culture. I wanted to build a parallelism between my childhood growing up in the suburbs of Maryland and my mother’s life, who lived during the Cultural Revolution in China and later immigrated to the United States during the 1980s.”
Jeremyn’s mother is the undeniably main character who has inspired his graduate collection. The beginning of this Parsons student’s fashion affair even started while observing his mother dressing up every time she went out. “The dressing process was always very personal to her and I think that created a natural progression for my interest in fashion design. It’s been something that I’ve wanted to pursue for as long as I can remember, and I’m grateful my parents supported that,” confesses Jeremyn.
The young talent, whose thesis collection was a finalist for the ‘Parsons X Kering Empowering Imagination’ competition, looks at his roots with pride and admiration. The cross-cultural diaspora between the Chinese and American is the dialogue behind his collection, as Jeremyn Lee is very aware of the impact that fashion can make to unite people.
To what extent are your Chinese roots injected in your signature as a creative?
I think it’s something that is, subconsciously, always there. Growing up in an American suburb built a bridge of social interactions between my peers versus the American culture. That played a huge role in my upbringing, because I constantly wanted to express pride in my Chinese background.
Why did you decide to go to Parsons?
I decided to go to Parsons to study fashion because the school has such a unique view on fashion and understands how to approach it within a global context.
You are graduating this spring, so I would like to know, in a nutshell, how has been the experience of studying at Parsons?
Being a student at Parsons has been such a unique experience. I would say that the best part about it is the relationships you build here and the amazing people that you meet. The school is widely recognized and connected throughout the industry, and that has opened me up to a lot opportunities, especially when showing my thesis this past semester.
Your thesis collection is one of the finalists for the ‘Parsons X Kering Empowering Imagination’ competition. What was the starting point of this collection? What is the main inspiration, and the techniques that you have used?
The starting point for this collection began last year from research that I had been doing on globalization versus how the world understood Chinese culture through dress.
Throughout this past year, the research shifted more into the idea of the cross-cultural diaspora, specifically the Chinese-American experience. My thesis became a reflection on how I came to reclaim Chinese culture. I wanted to build a parallelism between my childhood growing up in the suburbs of Maryland and my mother’s life, who lived during the Cultural Revolution in China and later immigrated to the United States during the 1980s. Her perspective on China is very unique because she had a normal childhood and all of a sudden, she lost everything.
The objects that my mother keeps from China are a big part of my inspiration as well. To this day, they remain very present and define her relationship with Chinese culture. I combined elements from her wardrobe – 70s Chinese fashion – with 80s American sportswear and professional outfits from when she first started working in the United States. With my thesis collection I experimented a lot with materiality and the idea of preservation versus replication and the notion of ‘recreating’ depictions of this cross cultural experience.
As a young designer, how decisive is mentorship to put your name out there and bust your career?
I think mentorship is extremely important in a successful career. As a young designer it’s almost impossible to launch a career based on just yourself alone.
Besides money, what are the big challenges that emerging talents have to face, nowadays?
For emerging designers I think the biggest issue is all the logistics and the business side about building label. Also, although the industry is becoming too saturated, but as long as designers have a strong vision, they shouldn’t be discouraged.
Would you like to start your own label soon, or you prefer to get experience working for a bigger name first? If so, who would you like to work for?
Looking forward I’d be interested in continuing my own work, and hopefully introduce my own label in a handful of years. I’ve interned for a few labels in New York City and I think it’s super important to work for a bigger name to learn what goes into a collection. There are so many aspects of a brand that stem beyond the design process.
In the current moment, do you think that fashion can make this world a better place?
In the current state of the world, I think fashion does have the power to create a better world. I think fashion needs to have the power to unite people. This was something I thought a lot about while working on my thesis collection. My main focus explored a very personal part of my life, but I also wanted the collection to represent this cross cultural diaspora that so many immigrant children have come to understand.
Words Celia Fernandez Images Courtesy of Jeremyn Lee