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Seattle Pacific University
Autumn 2007 | Volume 30, Number 2 | Features

Jaeil Lee

Autobiography of a dream

Jaeil Lee
Jaeil Lee, associate professor of textiles and clothing at Seattle Pacific University, was once a highly successful men’s wear technical designer for Abercrombie & Fitch. Her designs were created in the United States, but the clothing was manufactured overseas, then shipped back and sold to millions of American teens and 20-somethings.

“I was constantly on the phone to merchandisers and manufacturers in Bangladesh, China, Thailand, and Vietnam,” she says. “I had to understand them culturally for a good relationship. Unless you're sensitive to the rest of the world, you can’t work in most companies today.”

Two years ago, through what she calls “a series of small miracles,” Lee came up with a way to influence the fashion-conscious youth and young adults of her home country of South Korea. She published her autobiography there, telling the story of her 10-year journey from South Korea to a design career in the United States, a doctorate from Ohio State University, and a faculty position at Seattle Pacific. She says she wanted to communicate that vocation is less about making money and more about helping others — and, for Christians, glorifying God.

Lee’s book, I Design Dreams Every Day, became a Korean bestseller in the Christian book market and propelled her into magazines, newspapers, radio, and popular TV programs in Seoul.

“I have many emails from readers who have drifted from God,” she says. “My story touched them and brought them back.”

The book also introduces teens to Seattle Pacific. Lee hopes some of them will come to the University for their higher education: “It was hard for me to leave my family and culture, but God has a good reason for me to be here, and he blessed me. Now I can influence students and help them to find the vision God hides in each of us.”

Lee’s demanding international experience results in high teaching standards. “They must be,” she says. “In the fashion world, if your designs are poor or delivered late, your company pays millions in penalties.”

Consequently, employers call to inquire about SPU students nearing graduation. “I want my students to be the leaders in the industry, not the followers,” Lee explains. “Leaders influence many people and can by their faith have a positive influence on a tough business. If you want to be a missionary, fashion is the perfect field.”

Conventional missionaries, the designer-turned-professor tells her students, don’t have the worldwide access they do.

—By Clint Kelly []
—Photo by Fritz Liedtke

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Department Highlights

from the president
Going Global
President Philip Eaton asks the Seattle Pacific community to discuss what “global” means for SPU.

APA Accreditation
SPU’s doctoral program in psychology now in an elite group.

Street Vision
Hillary Prag '06 gives homeless teens a voice — through a camera lens and Seattle gallery showing.

books, film, & music
Behind the Faces
Four new films may help moviegoers learn to love and understand their global neighbors.

On the Fast Track
Jessica Pixler received numerous awards as a freshman, including an international gold.

my response
A Banquet of Languages
David Habecker ’93 says knowing multiple languages gave him a new perspective on life — and his faith.

Response art
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Professor Joanna Poznanska and her husband share “Forbidden City,” by a Chinese artist.