Aram Lee doesn’t do too well with limitations. As she puts it, “I’m always drawn to something that has more than one option.” Fittingly, she’s done a pretty amazing job of creating opportunities for herself. Born and raised in South Korea, she took an early interest in design and studied metalwork at Seoul National University. After a stint making fine jewelry (not her thing), she finally found her groove. “I always liked working with handbags—they’re more three-dimensional, and the possibilities are endless,” she explains. She took off for New York, studied accessories at FIT, and scored jobs at Gap and Kate Spade.
But even super-resilient Aram isn’t immune to burnout, and it was during a bit of a break from her accessories gigs that she had a eureka moment. Frustrated with her day bag’s size, she cut up a bunch of leather panels and stapled them together into a foldable, origami-like creation that could transform from a tote to a slim crossbody. The pattern made designing bags seems shiny and new again, and in 2016, she started selling a line of two- or three-in-one creations. They’re no-waste, too, since Aram re-uses any scraps for smaller pouches—because if anyone’s equipped to explore every possibility, it’s her.