Professor Jaeil Lee, who was once a successful men’s wear technical designer for Abercrombie and Fitch, received the 2023-24 WA-FCS Research Scholar of the Year award at the Washington State AAFCS (American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences) annual conference in Vancouver, Washington.

When she worked for Abercrombie, her designs were created in the U.S., manufactured overseas, and then sent back to the retail stores where her target audience consisted of American teens and 20-somethings.

“I was constantly on the phone to merchandisers and manufacturers in Bangladesh, China, Thailand, and Vietnam,” she said, in a Response magazine article in 2007. “I had to understand them culturally for a good relationship. Unless you’re sensitive to the rest of the world, you can’t work in most companies today.”

Lee later wrote an autobiography, I Design Dreams Every Day, detailing her journey from South Korea to her design job in the United States. Along the way, she earned a doctorate from Ohio State University. In 2001, she joined Seattle Pacific University where she is now a professor and co-chair of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. She received a Fulbright Teaching Award to Burma/Myanmar (2018–19) from the U.S. Department of State and taught an MBA course at Yangon University of Economics and provided workshops and lectures to the fashion industry in Myanmar.

At the AAFCS conference in Vancouver, Lee presented “A Passion for Fashion: Five Ways to Help Your Students Succeed.” She outlined practical ways to help students succeed in the competitive fashion industry. She gave ideas to help students prepare for and select a college. She provided tips on building a portfolio as well as a personal brand. She discussed how to enhance critical professional skills, find internships, and explore new and non-traditional career opportunities.

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