Chia Lee

new york
new york
united states
Production Location:
united states
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Collection – Kopitiam

Found in the crooks and corners of the streets in Malaysia, there are establishments that offer a glimpse into the country’s heritage and the locals know it as “Kopitiam”. Kopitiam [“kopi”, Malay for coffee, and “tiam” Hokkien (a Chinese dialect) for shop] is a traditional coffee shop where the locals start their day. The Kopitiam serves a simple breakfast menu that consists of charcoal-toasted bread with kaya paste, half-boiled eggs and homemade coffee. It tells the story of how immigrants from China came to Nanyang (“south sea” or South East Asia) in the late 18th century, a land they saw as a heaven for prosperity and a life-changing future for their family. Kopitiam is the evidence of a melting-pot culture started by the Hainanese immigrants who called Malaysia their second home. Societies collided and new cultural practices were formed as the local's and the immigrant's lives intertwined.

Inspired by the Kopitiam's down-to-earth interior and unique material culture; this collection acts as a medium to revisit my childhood memories, to trace my heritage, and to preserve the rich history and nostalgic value attached to these establishments. The collection envisioned a nostalgic representation of 3 generations within a family within the setting of a Kopitiam through the materiality and the reiteration of traditional crafts.
Chia Lee is a recent Fashion Design graduate from Parsons the New School for Design. She studied abroad at Central Saint Martins’ BA Fashion knitwear pathway in the spring and summer semester of 2016. It was an eye-opening experience for her as she discovered a whole new world of creative textiles crafted using unconventional materials. Raised in Malaysia, she is exposed to a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society with diverse religion and traditions. Chia’s appreciations towards cultural heritage and sense of nostalgia are deeply rooted in her work. Through knitting, sewing and embroidery works, Chia creates textile-based designs that are heavily focused on materiality. Her work embodies nostalgic memory of the past by interweaving innovative ideas from the present, embracing the beauty of traditional craftsmanship with a twist of the present through material and technology. Chia’s thesis collection: Kopitiam is a look into everyday life in Malaysia through an installation of a coffee shop from the perspective of 3 generations within her family. She wishes to preserve the nostalgic value attached to the Kopitiam’s down-to earth material culture through the reiteration of traditional crafts and textiles. Chia was one of the finalist for the Parsons’ End of Year Future Textiles Award for and was selected to show her collection at the annual Parsons Benefit Gala. She also exhibited her collection at the CFDA Fashion Future Graduate Showcase, a curated fashion popup exhibition that showcased 60 top fashion graduates. Last September, Chia also participated in New York Textile Month, displaying her collection alongside Eileen Fisher's Circular by Design exhibition. Chia currently resides in New York and is looking for opportunities to expand her knowledge in knitwear and textiles within the New York fashion industry.