Leif J. Lee is a Pacific Northwest multi-disciplinary artist with a primary focus in the textile arts. They are passionate about creating, learning new skills and experimentation. Lee seeks to center and uplift the queer narrative in their art practice.
What made you want to start your business?
I have been passionately creating work for many years. When I found a way to make my art accessible to others in my community, I saw an opportunity that I didn't want to miss. I wanted to provide people with a connection to hand made apparel and accessories. My experience with fast fashion is that it disconnects us from our creativity. Offering people a connection to a face behind a hand made object that they could then wear & accessorize was important to me. This can create community and a sense of belonging that an often faceless mass market can't provide. In short, I wanted to build community through art making.
Did you have experience when you started?
I have experience with sewing, drawing, print making, dying fabric and creating art on a large scale. As my business grew there were a lot of things I needed to learn as I went along. Working with clients, marketing, business skills etc were all things I had never don't before. Once I left my day job in the food and beverage industry there was a steep learning curve to adapt to. In many ways I am still learning.
What makes your brand or process unique?
I love that it can evolve and change over time. Having the control over my materials, shipping supplies, and batch quantity keeps things fresh. Expressing my queerness and non-binary experience in the work is empowering. I love to be able to inspire others to create and express their unique selves.
What challenges have you overcome in your entrepreneurship?
The biggest challenge for me has been around funding projects. Having lost my family due to homophobia and transphobia I have really struggled. This challenge over the years has meant that creating a support network has had to take priority. Finding a balance between self-employment work and self care has been hard but one I am grateful to say that I have been able to find with the help of my community.
What is your favorite thing you've created?
My favorite project for my business has been my Hand To Hand bag line. These bags included fanny packs, tote bags, zipper pouches and wallets. Each bag was made with 100% hand painted fabric yardage and cut and sewn individually. The colors are bright and unique which brought a lot of joy.
What does the queer future look like?
The queer future looks like a place where BIPOC trans and gender non-conforming people are protected and thriving. Queer elders are honored and celebrated. Queer histories are known and their stories are told. The AIDS crisis has ended and those who lost their lives are memorialized. Queer and trans youth are valued and supported with life affirming health care.
Who are your favorite queer creatives?
Junglepussy, Princess Bouton, Christine and the Queens, Shannon Funchess, Cakes da Killa.
What's your favorite non-profit?
How are your products made?
I hand paint and dye textiles that I then cut and sewn into clothing and accessories. I also screen print and block print some images by hand. I have a few items in my online shop that I draw and design digitally that are then printed off site.
What is the production process like?
I start with found or new fabric yardage that I paint, dye, block print or draw on by hand. Then I lay out the sewing patterns, measure, cut, heat set and sew. When I do any screen printing I use a station I set up in my home garage. There I print and cure the screen printing inks.