I Focus on the Pain Points to Come up With Solutions, Aramlee
Aram Lee is a fashion accessory and product designer based in Brooklyn and serves as a part-time faculty member at Parsons School of Design. She is from Korea where she studied Art and Design at Seoul National University and moved to New York where she started her career as a handbag designer for Kate Spade and the Gap before moving on to become a creative director for Kooba. Aram’s passion for creating unique and practical designs is the focus of her creative process. "The design process is to work with physical objects as well as the space around it. I believe the silhouette should be designed in both positive and negative spaces”.
Prior to starting your own label you had a career in fashion, what inspired the initial move into the fashion industry?
I loved fashion, but I couldn't find leather bags I love. After finishing college in 1999, I got a job as a handbag designer, and that's how I got my foot in the door.
What would you say are the main influences in your design process?
Simply from my personal experiences and I focus on the pain points to come up with solutions.
I came up with the idea for the Hana bag when I was running errands. I left home with a small bag and came back with a bunch of other shopping bags because I needed more room later on. After that event, I thought it would be a great idea to create a stylish handbag that could be expandable and collapsible, so it can be useful for the multiple occasions. The Mari tote idea came from a hiking trip. I went on a camping trip with friends, and we decided to go hiking. It wasn't in my original plan, so I didn't have a proper backpack to carry, so I carried a canvas tote. The trail wasn't quite easy and we had to climb up, and this tote kept falling off my shoulder! so I wore it as a backpack. It freed my hands, however, the bag wasn't sitting right and the stuff in the bag was hitting my back. After the trip, I started folding up a canvas tote and I came up with an idea of Tote-to-Backpack item.
Why is being sustainable important to your brand?
While I was working in the industry, I was struck by the amount of waste created during the making process and the negative impact to our environment. It was accelerated when fast-fashion came in and swirled the whole industry. Since the leather is natural product, there are some parts that can't be used due to its irregular shape. The industry standard wastage of leather ranges from 20% - 50%, depending on the size of the leather piece. I tried to find a solution to lower the wastage, and came up with an idea to make use of the scraps. After cutting the leather, all scrap pieces from the bags are gathered and reused to create the pouches. Also, I wanted to create timelessproducts and use the high quality material to lengthen the lifecycle of the products.
You design a range of products, what inspired this decision, for instance why not just focus on bags?
I love earrings that are bold and whimsical. After making pouches out of scrap leather pieces, still I was holding a bunch of small scrap pieces. I wanted to do something with it and came up with the jewelry line.
Do you have any favourite pieces from your current work?
This is a tough question! I like them all! I love the Hana bag for its unique look and versatility. I love the Mari tote for its practicality and the Cloud bag for its whimsical look! The Rei bag is stylish one way, and practise the other way. The Nora backpack is chic and it holds everything you need throughout the day.
Where do you hope to be five years from now?
I get a lot questions from men if I would create convertible bags for men. That's something I am considering to have in the future.