Heritage denim company Lee recently celebrated the appointment of its vice president, global head of design, Betty Madden, at an intimate dinner party in New York. Guests perused the latest Lee collection and had the opportunity to discuss the brand one-on-one with Madden, who began working for the company in December 2018. The private event was held at the Casey Residence on April 29.
Hailing from a varied fashion background, Madden has held creative director and design roles for brands such as Nike, Abercrombie and Fitch, Victoria’s Secret and American Eagle. Madden will work from Lee’s headquarter office in Greensboro, N.C.
Here, Madden, discusses her new role at Lee and the future of the brand with WWD.
WWD: Tell me a bit about how Lee is about to evolve. How will your creative direction influence the brand’s aesthetic?
Betty Madden: I couldn’t be more excited about being part of this incredible brand. Lee has a 130-year-old history filled with beautiful depth and dimension; it’s a brand you can believe in that’s filled with stories of invention and design. Right now, there is an exciting interest and revival of brands that feel real and grounded in warm and comforting heritage, and that leans into Lee.
The connection between what’s real and steeped in truth paired with all of the sustainability and innovation initiatives gives Lee an exciting runway. Being inventive and pushing the boundaries has always been who we are. People are evolving, the world is evolving and so are the needs and expectations of this generation and the generations before them. We want to dust off who we are and introduce ourselves to a whole new audience with exciting collections, deep captivating stories and connecting with our consumer in progressive new ways…all of our consumers. Thinking big and bold the way our founder did.
WWD: What is Lee working on in regard to sustainability?
B.M: Lee is committed to responsibly resourced products while supporting sustainable efforts and creating positive impacts in communities globally. Many of our owned and operated facilities have implemented significant water reduction techniques, including wastewater recycling and lasers, to reduce the water used in finishing denim.
Our designers have been leading the industry in 3-D Virtual Design. This practice is something we invested in several years ago for our Riders collection. By designing virtually, we are able to reduce physical prototypes by 30 percent, leading to significant reductions in water usage, carbon emissions as well as creates better time and design efficiencies. We are now using that same technology in the design of all of our men and women’s collections.
Additionally, we are incorporating recycled polyfiber into several large volume collections. The Riders’ essential denim bottoms — bootcut, straight and skinny fits that encompass our biggest volume program at mass retail, is now made with 30 percent recycled polyfiber. We also have products launching in our Lee men’s line this holiday that will use recycled polyfiber.
WWD: Are there any new brand collaborations in the mix?
B.M: What we are focusing on right now is delivering a variety of great styles across multiple retail channels. We will have a very premium collection that will launch this holiday that was prompted by our archives in a more literal fashion than our current Vintage Modern collection. It will harken back to the styles that Lee first created when we began creating jeans for women in the Forties.
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