Every season, John Lewis & Partners’ in-house brand Modern Rarity invites a designer to inject a touch of the unexpected into its collection.
For autumn 2018 and spring 2019, the baton has been handed over to Jackie Lee, a South Korea-born designer who launched her eponymous label J JS Lee in 2010 after graduating from Central Saint Martins. Known for her androgynous and slickly tailored pieces, she never expected the call from John Lewis & Partners to collaborate. ‘It’s my favourite store for homeware,’ she enthuses over coffee near her studio in Hackney, east London. ‘When I was approached, I was like, “Are we doing an interiors collaboration?” so when they said it was to do clothing, I thought, “Even better!”’
A TWIST ON KNITWEAR
Jackie’s brief was to create a knitwear capsule collection – a no-brainer for winter, but not traditionally for summer. The solution lay in utilising a finely gauged crepe yarn that feels cool on the skin. ‘It has a mesh knit effect rather than being very tightly packed, so it’s lightweight,’ Jackie explains. The material was used to bring to life the ponchos, cropped jumpers and intarsia knit dresses inspired by her archive.
When designing, Jackie conceives entire looks as opposed to independent pieces. ‘I’m always thinking of the woman, and what she would wear,’ she explains. As a result, the capsule collection also features a silk shirt dress and slim-leg trousers that can be layered with the knitwear.
INSPIRED BY THE CITY
London has been Jackie’s home for 14 years and continues to be a source of constant inspiration. After working in Seoul for eight years as a pattern cutter, she says: ‘When I came over here I felt it was a relaxed city – people walk very slowly, they take their time, they enjoy coffee, they ride their bikes. I love the style, too. Everyone mixes and matches – old with new, contemporary and traditional. It’s totally different to what I saw in Korea.’
Jackie’s philosophy is ‘buy less, keep for longer,’ which resonates with the Modern Rarity ethos. ‘I focus on quality, timelessness and effortlessness, so that my customer can keep items in her wardrobe for years to come,’ she says.
And how did it feel seeing her designs in John Lewis & Partners? ‘I found it so exciting. I took my mother to see the display when she came over from Korea and she bought three pieces.’ The proud moment was topped off when en route to the Gatwick Express, they spotted a commuter in a camel jumper from the autumn collection. ‘I recognised the shape, colour and details immediately,’ Jackie recalls. ‘My mum was like, ‘‘wow!”