In the 1970s, at the age of 4, Wayne Lee and her family fled war-torn Vietnam and made their way to America. A studious Wayne earned a full scholarship to Vassar, but she was also determined to follow her passion. She always loved designing clothes for herself (hand-sewn by her aunt), and surprised everyone when she dropped out of medical school to take a sales position at Barneys in New York. She eventually started her eponymous fashion house, and advises her customers to dress like she’s lived: not afraid to try something completely new. We talked to the designer about her life, her inspiration, and her spring 2009 collection.
shopbop: Your personal story is remarkable, how has it influenced your designs?
Wayne Lee: My earlier experiences have given me the strength and the freedom to design without limits and inhibitions. I’m interested in discovering new shapes, new fits, to work with new materials. I play with classical shapes and enhance these into something more modern, more new. For example, the double breasted jacket in the spring/summer ’09 collection is a classic jacket made with a glossy polyester fabric.
SB: Daily Candy called your pieces “flirty with touches of tomboy and comfort.” How would you describe your line’s aesthetic?
WL: Words that come to mind are androgynous, futuristic, effortless, unique, timeless, and affordable.
SB: Let’s look at your spring 2009 collection. What did you have in mind when designing it?
WL: I was inspired by “track and field” for the spring 2009 collection. I was watching all these Olympics ads on television which also made an impact on me. I had a lot of fun designing this collection, as with all my other collections.
The shapes of each piece were enhanced to give it more flirtiness and uniqueness. Necklines were lowered, armholes were enlarged, and fits were modified to be more slouchy and easy. The fabrics were chosen for their lightness and fluidity. I used a lot of silk crepe de chine, silk georgette, silk chiffon, and lightweight polyester imported from state-of-the-art mills in Japan.
SB: How would you describe the WAYNE customer?
WL: My customer is an individual who is confident, bold, knows what she likes and has a great sense of style. She throws on effortlessly whatever is comfortable; the look is easy and stylish.
SB: What is the best fashion advice you can offer to women today?
WL: Put on whatever you want, whenever you want. Don’t be afraid to try new things.
Check back tomorrow for a Q&A with Johnson designer Kristen Johnson.