Keeping Asia’s Fashion Game in the Lead | MISSBISH Justine Lee

Author: Coco Marett

Fashion is in Justine Lee's bones. When we were in middle and high school, one of the very few places in Hong Kong we could buy American fashion magazines was at a tiny American bookstore on the waterfront, and she went religiously. Her bedroom walls were literally plastered with ripped out magazine pages from wall to wall, floor to ceiling.

When she came back from spending summer in the States each year, always a few suitcases heavier of course, her eyes would light up as she showed me new pieces she picked up and talked about new brands she discovered.

Today, Lee has turned staying ahead of the game into a career as the fashion director for Hong Kong Tatler.

“It’s about staying up to date and reporting what international cities like Paris, Milan, London and New York are doing; keeping it high fashion and luxury but also making it relevant. You want to be inspired by it, to make it accessible and attainable. People used to think of Tatler as ball gowns and tiaras, but that’s really changed,” she says. “Hong Kong Tatler is the headquarters for Edipresse, which owns all of the Asian editions of Tatler, so we spearhead the direction of the fashion content for the region.”

But before she was being flown around the world to attend all the major fashion weeks, before sitting front row at Versace shows and taking trips to the Maldives with Jimmy Choo, Lee cut her teeth working in various roles at some of fashion’s major players in New York and Hong Kong such as Barney’s New York, Harper’s Bazaar, and Lane Crawford.

“Nothing easy comes without hard work. It’s also just about being a pleasant person - I think that’s really underrated."

“Nothing easy comes without hard work. You have to pay your dues as an intern, you have to assist someone and work and learn under someone. It’s also just about being a pleasant person - I think that’s really underrated,” says Lee. “When I go to fashion week, people tell me that they’re always impressed when they see the Asian press; how we’re all really good friends, we stick together and talk to each other. We’re close. We have dinners and hang out… it’s just fun, and it should be fun. You make some amazing friendships, even if they’re our competitors.”

Lee’s playful personality - ask about her sticker collection, she’ll be just as excited to show that to you as she’d be to show you her new ALAÏA boots - and laidback approach to fashion is a breath of fresh air in an industry that, for the longest time, has been perceived as rigid and stuffy. Especially when it comes to her whimsical, otherwordly editorials.

Lee worked as a stylist for Hong Kong Tatler before she was promoted to fashion editor, throwing together looks for the city’s elite and dreaming up fashion shoots worthy of the pages of Vogue.

“I love doing location shoots, which is hard in Hong Kong because you don’t have as much access to abandoned places or interesting buildings,” says Lee, adding that one of her favorite shoots to date was shot inside of a persian rug warehouse that she stumbled upon in one of the city’s outlet malls. “It comes down to being resourceful, and finding inspiration where you least expect it.”

The girl definitely has a knack for taking the ordinary and creating something extraordinary - especially, and unsurprisingly, when it comes to her outfits.

“It’s all about basics. White tees, black jeans, raw denim… always essentials. The key to elevating basics is little accents. If you’re in something plain, a good shoe or a nice boot is all you need to dress it up. I’m also a big statement jacket kind of person. I don’t live in a climate that supports it, but I make it work.”

Photographer: Chris Lim