Designer name: Chau Har Lee
Origin: Chau is Chinese but was born and brought up in London.
Design background: Chau studied her BA at Cordwainers College (2002) and then completed her MA at the Royal College of Art (2009). She tutored at London College of Fashion and Prescott & Mackay. As well as working as a freelance designer, she worked at Nicole Farhi as an accessories designer, production assistant and maker of leather architectural interiors. Chau has been working as part of the Bally women’s shoe design team since June 2010; her first designs for the brand will be in stores in early 2011.
Career highlight: “Meeting Manolo Blahnik and receiving an award from him.”
Design signatures: “My designs span conceptual showpieces to elegant and original but accessible footwear. I often employ a crossover of making and manufacturing processes from fields other than shoemaking in order to realise my concepts. This gives me massive scope for creativity in the design stage by removing boundaries associated with traditional methods. However, my knowledge of traditional shoemaking lets me know how and where I can break these boundaries. Importantly, although my most conceptual designs are showpieces, they are still built to adorn the foot.
To summarise, the more inventive pieces are desirable as bold fashion statements and the more accessible shoes are unique, timeless and beautiful.”
How would you describe the Chau Har Lee woman? “Aged between 25 and 50, she appreciates luxury and exclusivity coupled with high quality and considered design. A professional and independent woman with discerning taste, a sense of fun and an awareness of fashion trends, yet she is not a fashion victim.”
What is your trademark piece? Chau cites two styles as her key looks, “the steel heels and the flat pack shoes.”
Name three things that are inspiring you for autumn/winter 2011: “At the moment - mechanics, armour and motorcycle helmets - but these are likely develop and change!”
What’s next for your brand? “I’m developing my trademark shoes. My work with a plastics manufacturer in Northern Ireland means they are integrating strong plastics (usually used in building) into the flat pack shoes. I then have an engineering company reviewing how the pieces are cut. I’m working with welders on the steel heels.”
What music is playing in your studio this season? “Marvin Gaye.”