Designer Crystal Lee of C.R.LEE
Our series Talk Shop is a career and style profile featuring personalities from various industries. They are shot on location in Cherry Creek sometimes wearing clothing from stores in the area. Writer KOYA NYANGI interviews designer Crystal Lee of C.R.LEE Designs. at the JW Marriott Denver Cherry Creek. Crystal wears clothing from her collection
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ESTHER LEE LEACH // LOCATION: JW MARRIOTT DENVER CHERRY CREEK
SITTINGS EDITOR: KOYA NYANGI // MAKEUP: NATALIE TATUM // HAIR: MARLANIA KYRA TRUJILLO
Great business ideas are sometimes born when you realize that you have been left out of the equation. Crystal was constantly on the hunt, searching for specific items to add to her closet but just couldn’t find the right ones. This journey, led to the creation of the C.R.LEE brand, filling the market gap of high fashion for women of all sizes. Crystal’s designs have gained a following both locally and internationally. Crystal will be showcasing her brand C.R.LEE at Paris Fashion Week for the first time, truly a testament of her hard work, commitment and passion that she has poured into building C.R.LEE. From Denver to Paris, Crystal is on a roll and she isn’t looking back!
Koya Nyangi: Let’s start from the beginning Crystal. How did you get involved in the fashion industry?
Crystal Lee: I started in the fashion industry when I noticed that there was a true void in the market for high fashion for women of all sizes. The cuts, the lines and fit were catering to a limited body type so I decided to start making my own clothing. I made pieces for myself and started to receive a great response from friends and family. I decided to take it seriously and get more formal training. I enrolled at The Art Institute of Colorado for fashion design, focused on the construction of garments and the art of sewing. From there things have just grown organically from making things for friends and family to now having a consistent custom clientele base and ready to wear collections.
KN: You started your own fashion brand C.R.LEE in 2012. Tell us more about the brand and the process of creating a new clothing company.
CL: Oh man! Where do I start? Well let’s just say this has been a labor of love but when you absolutely love what you do it’s so worth it. There has been a great deal of trial and error but for the most part it’s a dream come true. The C.R.LEE brand is an approachable luxury brand. The brand focuses on making every client feel like they are transformed, empowered and unique.
KN: One thing that most people struggle with is translating passion into a career. How did you figure it all out?
CL: Well I’m still figuring it out but honestly what has worked for me is doing something every day. For seven years I have sent an email, shopped for fabric, made a post, studied a new sewing technique or something else C.R.LEE related every day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes! So, consistency really is key.
KN: Congratulations on your upcoming showcase at Paris Fashion Week! Could you give us an insight into what you are planning and the collection that you will be showing?
CL: Thank you! With this collection, I am introducing C.R.LEE to a whole new market so I will be showing a few classics, and giving an insight into where the brand is going. There is at least a piece or two for everyone!
KN: You are collaborating with the Denver based company Encounter Hat Co on this show. Tell us more about this collaboration and the styles that will be showcased.
CL: The C.R.LEE women is bold, sophisticated and strong. I love how Encounter Hat Co has the same philosophy on design and craftsmanship. So, we are collaborating on marrying the worlds of sophisticated street style and luxury polish that both of our brands are known for.
KN: C.R.LEE was recently featured at New York Fashion Week. How does a brand based in Denver get on the calendar for NYFW? Tell us more about that experience.
CL: After I showed my 2017 collection at Massif Fashion Week in Denver, my good friend and fashion photographer Kevin Alexander suggested that I submit my work to the show’s producers. They loved it and within an hour I had an email invite!
KN: Who is the C.R.LEE woman?
CL: She is an urban romantic. She is many things because she doesn’t check a box of who she should be. She’s a unicorn, she is bold, timeless, fun and eager to try new things. She’s a mom, she’s a CEO, she’s tall, she’s short, she’s curvy, she’s ageless.
KN: What advice can you share with new designers who are in the process of creating their own brands?
CL: Just start. Don’t stop. Do it because you love it, because there will be many times that it is just you and your passion, and that has to be enough. Everything else will fall into place.
Photo Shoot Location Info: Centrally located in the heart of Cherry Creek, JW Marriott Denver Cherry Creek embodies the spirit of the neighborhood, offering inspired luxury just steps away from world-class culture and nature that is yours to discover. Settle into one of their 199 spacious guest rooms. Take in the breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains. With localized touches, considered community partnerships, and a destination restaurant, come find your place in the heart of it all. The deck space is available for meetings, events and weddings. Marriot.com/denjw
Crystal Lee: @C.R.LEE
Cherry Creek Fashion TV’s My Style Guide with Crystal Lee