A Q&A with Marjorie Lee Woo

LIM College’s associate chair of visual merchandising tips her hat to the next generation of designers.
Posted July 6, 2009
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What was your first job relating to retail and visual?

When I was in college, my father paid me to assist him in building his dream restaurant. I was fascinated planning the space, working with the architect, sourcing materials and designing the signage.

In 2003, you joined the staff at LIM, in the fashion and visual merchandising departments. What brought you here?

I have a degree in fashion design and had been a sportswear buyer for Joske’s. But I have a passion for visual merchandising and that is what guided me to my present full-time position.

How does being surrounded by students keep you inspired?

It gives me the opportunity to stay current with students’ likes and dislikes and get their perspective on social and political issues. I also immerse myself in their energy, enthusiasm and talents.

You’ll be talking about the next generation of retail designers at IRDC this year. What’s something those in the field could learn from students?

This generation is technologically advanced. Their ability to multi-task the computer, the iPhone, the TV and the video game is an event in itself. They know how best to engineer a concept and find solutions by utilizing current technology.

What three words describe you?

Enthusiastic, intuitive and passionate.

What’s your favorite movie?

“My Fair Lady,” starring Audrey Hepburn. I find the reinventing (rebranding) of the main character – the fashion, hats and music, all woven into a storyline that carries a message of life and hope – to be very uplifting.

Favorite vacation spot?

Hawaii. It’s a visual paradise, and the people and their mellow attitudes are beautiful as well.

In your other life, you design hats. What skills as a milliner do you use in retail?

Design is design, whether it’s a small object, such as a hat, or a large endeavor, such as a store. It’s finding the right balance of scale and proportion to the overall composition or environment.

What’s the first rule in picking out a hat?

Don’t prejudge how a particular hat will look on you. You may find a hat attractive because of its color and silhouette, and yet, it doesn’t enhance your appearance. At the same time, another more understated hat comes to life as soon as you place it on your head. Try on as many hats as possible and enjoy the process of selecting the right one.

SIDEBAR: LADY AND THE HAT

  • Founded Marjorie Lee Woo Fine Millinery in 1992
  • Won a Milli award in 1998 and 2000 for her designs in the “Out of This World” hat category, as voted by the fashion press and buyers
  • John Travolta, Julie Andrews and Kristi Yamaguchi all own her original designs
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