Doris Lee Defy www.defy.com.hk Fashion degree at Otis College of Art and Design Life could have been very different for Doris Lee, the owner of successful fashion label Defy, had she not risked everything to follow her life's passion. All prepared to start an undergraduate degree in business at the University of Southern California, Lee changed her mind, deciding instead to turn her love for art into a business. She enrolled at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles and has never looked back. She set up her first studio in 1999 and began producing for overseas brands. She launched Defy in 2001, and since then has shown collections at Australian Fashion Week and at Hong Kong Fashion Week. How would you describe your style? It's not avant garde - I would say it's more somewhere between classic and modern. It is clean, sculptured, not highly embellished or accessorised. Who are you designing for? Generally women in their early 30s to 40s, women who are independent, who know what they want and who want something unique, something that will show their individual character. Was it always your ambition to set up a label? I think that is the ambition of all designers. If I had the chance to start over I would go to a big international brand to learn their business structure before I launched my own business. After Otis I worked for a manufacturer in Hong Kong, where I learnt technical skills, but it was a factory. I didn't get the opportunity to learn how to run a fashion brand at that company and after I started my own business I realised I lacked that kind of knowledge. Describe your autumn/winter collection. Basically it's a twist on the classic style. The trend this season is the Victorian cut. We took a bit of that and added a modern twist because we want our style to stay young. We wanted to capture the mood of the Victoria era, and also the classic styles of the 1940s and 1950s. What inspires your designs? The silhouettes of past times inspire me. Whenever I start to design a collection I look for inspiration from the past because the cuts and tailoring are stunning. What has been the biggest challenge of your career? Trying to keep a balance between the business and creative side. I try to keep a 50-50 balance, but sometimes I lean more towards the business and less towards the creative side. Because, frankly speaking, if you cannot make the business side work there's no way your creativity will be seen by other people. I think that's the toughest part for a lot of designers. What are your ambitions for Defy? I want to introduce it overseas. Right now we are targeting the United States' market but we're not sure how it will work out. One of the brands has taken up our stuff for a trial run. But it is a very mass-production market so I'm not sure how they will take to these items. Our line is more European in style. And we sell to some Australian labels but not under our own label. What do you think of the local fashion scene? I think it's tough. Hong Kong people don't really look to the local brands. They look for international brands and that's the tragic part because if local designers don't get the support from the local market it's very tough to survive.