Photography by Jurate Veceraite | @jveceraite


Meet Joyce Lee: a design creative based in New York. We spoke with Joyce about her
 20-year career in fashion design, starting out assisting Accessories Design at Marc Jacobs to her most recent role: Women's Creative Director at Madewell. After an amazing 15 years at Madewell, Joyce is taking time and making space for a creative re-set. We had the honor of catching a relaxed, morning moment with Joyce at her family apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where she effortlessly styled her favorite ELEVEN SIX Pre-Spring Knitwear with beautiful ease, and, shared how she likes to unwind outside of work. Read on for the Q+A...


Joyce wears the Everly cardi styled back to her own jeans.

Can you share your background, education and how your career path led you into being an accessories designer and then to be head of design at Madewell?


I grew up in California, always obsessed with clothes, shoes and bags.  I remember desperately wanting a pair of jelly shoes when I was six, and because my mom wouldn't allow me to get them, I had to figure out how to construct a pair for myself - using of six-pack rings and scotch tape.  That was the beginning of realizing that I needed to create and design things.  I majored in textiles for my undergraduate studies at UC Davis, and then moved to New York for an accessories design program at F.I.T.  I worked at Marc Jacobs for a magical two years, getting an incredible crash course in the industry.  I continued on to design at Michael Kors, and then had the opportunity to design handbags, accessories and footwear for a new brand, Gryson before landing at Madewell as the director of accessories.  As things were shifting at J.Crew group, I was given the opportunity to take on the head of design role at Madewell.  I loved taking things I had learned, connecting dots and eventually leading the full design vision of the brand.  I will always be grateful to my mentors who took a chance on me, believed in me and gave me the opportunities to grow.




Through 20+ years in the fashion design industry what parts of your work have you loved the most and can you share any highlights?

Getting to NYC over 20 years ago was so exciting - it felt like I finally landed somewhere I belonged. Then having the opportunity to work for my favorite designer at the time, Marc Jacobs - learning everything from the ground up, traveling to Italy to create the beautiful runway shoes, felt like a dream. Experiencing moments where my bosses lifted me up, supported me and gave me the runway to expand- will always stay with me. I remember that and aspire to be able to do the same for the next generation. And being part of a brand from the beginning at Madewell - our small and nimble team we always had so much fun working which is the best part of doing what you love! I got started with building on the accessories categories and launching some now iconic products that are unique to the brand - I treasure the feeling of starting with a vision and working with teams to bring it together, and see it out in the world.


Joyce wears the Sara Cardi in Tomato styles with her own jeans.


We particularly loved the collab you spearheaded with upcycle designer: La Reunion to use dead-stock fabrics from Madewell in a beautiful, creative way. Can you share more about this project and were you able to do other sustainable collaborations or steer sustainable practices at Madewell?

La Reunion was doing really beautiful and clever things with remnant fabrics and I remember being so drawn to them when I first discovered Sarah Nsikak's work on Instagram.  I immediately reached out to order a dress for myself, and Sarah and I realized that we knew each other from years back.  It was so fun to reconnect with an old friend in the industry, and from there, we talked about how incredible it could be to join forces and find a way for her to use some of Madewell's leftover fabrics.  Sustainability and finding ways to renew materials are so important to me.  Our design team worked on another exciting project with Temescal Creative on an upcycled leather tote, using deadstock leathers to create a beautiful one-of-a-kind patchwork tote bag.  


You have recently left Madewell for a creative re-set. Are you able to share what this space means for you (and if there is anything exciting on the horizon you can share...)?

 It's an exciting and expansive time for me, and I'm making space to focus on the things that fulfill and inspire me.  Having time to spend with my two young kids, enjoying days wandering around NYC, connecting with friends and peers, taking in inspiration through everyday life, and incubating new ideas.


Joyce wears the Ava Stripe Sweater styled with her own jeans.



 What are your favorite ways to unwind and switch off?

I do love a glass of wine and my apple tv!  And my friends know I'm always down for a good spa day!


Where are you dreaming of hopping on a plane to next?  

We just booked a trip to Isla Mujeres for our kids' spring break - really excited for some mexican food and beach time with the family


What is a series/movie/book you just read or watched that you loved?

I'm watching Slow Horses with my husband right now, and we are enjoying the series together, which doesn't always happen.   

Joyce wears the Tasha Crochet Jacket in black with her own jeans. 



Your husband is also a creative, photographer: James Ryang - do you like to channel ideas creatively together for work or otherwise?

We both love art and photography, it's always fun to see shows together - he always brings in a different perspective which I really appreciate. 


You are a mama of two beautiful children, how do you manage the juggle between motherhood and being a professional creative. Are you children intrigued about what you and your husband do/or have done as a career?

I've come to realize that no matter how you slice things, it's always a balancing act.  I love what I do, and don't think I'd be able to refrain from finding creative outlets, and it's really fun to see my kids' creativity come out through their personalities.  My 8 year old daughter really enjoyed playing around on her ipad, making logos, and I explained to her that being a graphic designer was a job.  She asked me if there was school for graphic designers and was so excited when I told her there were.  It makes me so happy being able to support my kids in their creative interests.


 Joyce wears the Vaida Sweater in Pale Grey with her own jeans.



How would you describe your personal style in fashion and interiors?

I would say my style is pretty effortless, timeless, pared back - I really love to invest in nice fabrics and materials, simple designs, and pieces that feel special and unique.  And I'd say that I approach interiors in a similar way...


What does the ELEVEN SIX brand mean to you and which are your favorite pieces to integrate with your own style and wardrobe?

I love that ELEVEN SIX stands behind beautiful design, luxurious yarns, and is elevated and effortless.   It's really wonderful knowing that the sweaters were crafted by women in Peru, and the design approach Catherine embodies really works with the way I get dressed.  I love the
Everly cardi - the cozy texture, the big buttons and the wide sleeve make the piece feel so unique.  I love that I can pair it back with the matching Ayde skirt, or back with my cream jeans for a different look.  I also love the Vaida Sweater - it's super soft and airy, the sleeve shape is so beautiful - and I love that it feels casual and elevated at the same time.