Show + Tell: Joyce Lee, Madewell’s Head of Design

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Some of us take a winding path through life, dabbling before finding a niche. Others, well, they’re sort of born to do something and do it so naturally that it’s hard to tell where their work ends and their life starts. One example: Joyce Lee, our new head of design, whose sophisticated, relaxed style is a part of everything she does—from her design sketches to her home to her warm sense of humor. Sure, we see her every day—often in denim, occasionally in a jumpsuit—but we dropped by her Brooklyn apartment to learn just how she got to Madewell.

“One of my favorite memories is trying to convince my mom to buy whatever I was obsessing over as a child and being determined to wear it straight out of the store,” says Joyce. Even at a young age, it wasn’t shopping she loved—it was the designs themselves. When her mom refused to buy into the jelly shoe trend, Joyce just figured she’d make them herself (her first production materials: plastic six-pack rings and scotch tape). “It really was my first step toward knowing that I wanted to design.”

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Joyce’s monogrammed Transport Tote, our iconic carryall that she designed in 2011.

That focus led her to school at FIT and eventually to Madewell, never straying from the world of design. Tasked with overseeing shoes and bags, she came up with the now-iconic Transport Tote. “Free of trendy details, understated and really natural,” is how Joyce describes the bag. “Now, in my new role as head of design, I think about the Madewell girl on new levels—how she spends her time, how she thinks about getting dressed, what she wants to be wearing every day.”

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Just a part of Joyce’s jewelry collection

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“I first saw [my cat] Panda when she was a stray kitten that lived in my backyard. I’ve always felt she was meant to be in my life.”

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Artistic visionaries (like Herb Ritts, Issey Miyake and Man Ray) often make their way to Joyce’s Instagram.

As a new mother, comfort and ease are her style priorities, and she can’t live without what she calls “instant outfits.” “I love a one-piece. Jumpsuits have always been a staple in my wardrobe, and I buy white shirt dresses over and over. They’ve just collected in my closet over the past few years.” And so has denim, of course. “I have heaps! I love it all. Old, new. If there’s one thing that will never go out of style, it’s a pair of worn-in jeans.”

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A few last Q’s for Joyce… 

My favorite Instagram feeds are…
@cactusmagazine, @simplicitycity, @70sbabes, @tinyatlasquarterly

When I need to clear my head, I…
Take a hot shower.

My style icons are…
My mother, Charlotte Rampling and the women of the ’70s.

My guilty pleasure is…
A nice, cold glass of rosé and some online shopping.

I’m addicted to…
Hot sauce. I keep packets everywhere.

I’ll never give up…
On handwritten notes.

Joyce is wearing our Flea Market Flares: Button-Front Edition and the Constant Shirt.

Shop our newest arrivals here.

Photography by James Ryang.