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Woolmark Prize finalist MAXXIJ: watching the sun at midnight

MAXXIJ 2314 poster, sepia colour with figure of a person in the middle
  • Written byLubna Hussain
  • Published date 17 March 2023
MAXXIJ 2314 poster, sepia colour with figure of a person in the middle

We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Maxi Jaehyung Lee, an alumnus from BA Fashion Design Technology (Menswear) who graduated in 2013. He is now a famous designer with a recent achievement of becoming a finalist on the Woolmark Prize 2023 for his brand MAXXIJ. His previous graduate work Masquerade Collection won Best Designer Award at Seoul Fashion Week 2020 and debuted at London Fashion Week 2021.

It's clear why Maxi Jaehyung Lee has achieved so much success in just two years since graduating – his passion for design combined with his ambition is truly inspirational. Jaehyung’s success has been incredibly impressive and motivating for many aspiring fashion designers out there today. We asked him about his upcoming project, his inspirations and advice for any oncoming artists looking to get into the industry:

“I hope my perspective could be a beautiful discovery for you.”

Back shot of 7 models walking towards the light
MAXXIJ Sepia Poster | MAXXIJ 2023
Group image of 5 models wearing MAXXIJ clothing autumn winter 2022 collection
MAXXIJ AW22 Collection | MAXXIJ 2023
Congratulations on becoming a finalist for the Woolmark Prize! Do you have any advice for new and upcoming artists looking to apply?

Thank you! It is a great honour for me to be selected as a finalist for the prestigious Woolmark Prize.

Experiencing this journey to develop innovative wool designs with talented finalists from around the world is an exciting challenge which is why I was thrilled to be part of this great opportunity.

First of all, I would like to express respect to all those who continue their activities as artists at various stages of life. Sometimes the world recognises and loves your work, but there are more times when it is not. I hope you don't hesitate to stay in your work and existence.

"Have confidence in making a courageous choice with your own perspective to the world around you.”
You debuted at London Fashion Week in SS21 season and accomplished your third show for AW22 London Fashion Week with conceptual designs as part of your brand MAXXIJ. Please tell us more about your life after graduating and how your brand was born.

I started MAXXIJ with the desire to create a collection that helps people express their various selves.

The theme of my graduation project, “Masquerade Collection,” became the brand’s design philosophy, and was launched upon graduation. After that, I moved to Seoul, and debuted at Seoul Fashion Week. After showing a few collections, I had the honour of winning the best designer award, and through this, I debuted at London Fashion Week for the SS21 season.

Back shot of model wearing a blue puffer coat with several pockets
MAXXIJ RTW1 AW22 Collection: Sky Blue Multi Cargo Pocket Oversized Coat | MAXXIJ 2023
Model wearing beige and black waist length puffer jacket and grey bottoms in a studio with overhead camera rig
MAXXIJ AW22 Collection: Multi Pocket Detailed Contrast Jacket, Charcoal Raw-Edge Jean | MAXXIJ 2023
Your collections have amazing experimental designs with futuristic and boundary-pushing aesthetics. What can we expect to see for your Autumn/Winter 2023 collection, or a standalone IWP2023 capsule collection as part of your Woolmark project?

The theme of this collection is “watching the sun at midnight”. Inspired by the work of artist Katharina Sieverding, this collection aims to express my perspectives and obsessions. It is based on images that are only visible to my eyes through the contrast of light and darkness, overlapping layers, and complex structures.

It's stated that MAXXIJ embodies the idea 'act of wearing fashion itself could be an act of art'; with the theme being Dialogue for this project, how do you envision capturing a letter both to and for, the next generation?

My mission as a designer is to push forward the medium of fashion and make an innovative move for the future generation.

My design journey includes exploring ways with my perspective, never settling for easy answers and in the end the best is always the outcome of overcoming. I hope this collection can be an opportunity to pursue excellence and innovation and make the most courageous choices.

Back shot of model wearing Red Multi Slit Plaited Puffer Long Coat
MAXXIJ AW22 Collection: Red Multi Slit Plaited Puffer Long Coat | MAXXIJ
Model wearing camel beige colour cropped jacket with black and grey detailsand matching pants
MAXXIJ AW21 Collection LFW | MAXXIJ 2023
MAXXIJ has become global with stockists in Paris, Shanghai, Berlin, New York, Singapore and the showroom in Seoul! Do you wish to add a new line when your AW23 apparel gets released?

With this international expansion comes more opportunities, after the release of the AW23 collection, there are plans to add denim-focused capsule collection and sportswear collaboration lines.

After graduating from London College of Fashion, you received the award for Best Designer at Seoul Fashion Week 2020. What was the most valuable thing you learnt whilst being on the course that helped you through your career? Do you have any parting words of wisdom?

For me, MAXXIJ was an attempt to get to know a new self every different season. The most valuable thing I learnt from the course was around design method. Making a habit of taking a variety of design methodological approaches really broadened my design world. The most important thing I realised while building my career is that the experience accumulated through brave attempts is the greatest asset you can accumulate.

Side profile of model wearing a denim two-piece
MAXXIJ AW23 Collection “watching the sun at midnight” | MAXXIJ 2023