At any moment on Ring Road, it is not difficult to spot a fashionably dressed person, or two, or even twenty. But one student differs from the rest in her ability to turn an original design or craft idea in her head into reality from scratch. Mailor Lee constantly thinks about every angle of fashion, from the fabric of outfits to sewing techniques, day-in and day-out. A second year studying urban planning and environmental design, she is a self-motivated and dedicated member of UCI’s fashion community and is always contemplating her next project.
Too busy in high school to find an outlet for her interest in fashion, Mailor made an effort in her first year at UCI to become more involved with her hobby. In FIG (Fashion Interest Group), a club for students interested in the fashion business to express their design talent, she has taken advantage of the opportunity to follow her passion, picking up valuable design lessons from peers and her own work along the way. While balancing school and various other campus commitments, she participated in the organization’s annual fashion show competition that showcases student-designed outfits, winning with her clothing line, Nympheas, and beating out industry-experienced upperclassmen as a freshman. Her impressive feat would not have been possible without her tremendous hard work and willingness to learn. To meet the demands and deadlines expected of a designer, Mailor spent countless late nights preparing outfits for her clothing line, hand-sewing a multitude of rosettes on to one of her dresses, and using Youtube videos to learn how to sew for the first time.
This year is no different for her. Mailor is still subject to the same rigorous and time-consuming schedule of helping organize the FIG fashion show during spring quarter, in which design never leaves her mind. Despite being packed with these commitments, she uses every moment of her time on her original clothing based on the seasons of the year for the upcoming show, sewing on the shuttle to campus and, surprisingly, during lecture and always trying new techniques to make her designs look cleaner. “I don’t feel pressured to win,” says Mailor with a positive attitude, knowing that the grand prize for this year’s winner is $10,000. Nevertheless, she still wants to impress the judges, who include the Dean and a Youtube star. Speaking of the other designers in the competition, she is acknowledges that “they have great vision” and experience, and what matters in the end is the amount of effort that she is putting into her work. Above all, the proceeds of this year’s show are going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, an organization committed to raising awareness about diseases that Mailor is familiar with through family experience. “I’m being a part of something that gives back to the community,” she says, optimistic that her work will help contribute to a cause close to her.
So far, Mailor is hesitant about a career in the fashion field, mentioning its lack of practicality and competitiveness. Regardless of her decision about a future in design, however, she still intends to keep it as a lifelong hobby, learning not just important skills of the craft, but also valuable lessons about herself through stressful and self-critical experiences. “I realize that I need to just calm down and trust myself,” admits Mailor in moments of doubt and in pushing herself to improve her work. As an example of a successful and self-driven individual who did not get started until last year to begin her design career, she advises those who want to pursue fashion and have an idea to “write it down” and “don’t give up on it.”
In addition, Mailor’s impact extends far beyond FIG and into her roles as a mentor to children off campus and a cultural leader at UCI. She is currently in her second year as a Jumpstart corps member, making visits to Santa Ana schools and interacting with under-privileged children through lesson plans and activities. To meet her cultural interests, Mailor is an active member of the Hmong Students Association. “Being a part of the Hmong community here made me feel at home” says Mailor, “I definitely do feel like we are under-represented.” Hoping to build a more supportive atmosphere for other students of similar backgrounds, she serves as secretary on the executive board for the Southeast Asian Students Association, a student organization dedicated to fostering a Southeast Asian community on campus through raising the awareness of culture, education, and various issues within the population. In SASA, Mailor has already taken the initiative to extend the opportunities of her position by helping organize a conference to assist high school students in finding a caring cultural community and planning another fashion show among the various cultural clubs on campus. One of the main reasons that she is still at UCI is because of the community that she found, and in helping others find that home she is moving closer to accomplishing her goal of providing support needed by those students to thrive.
Outside of clubs and classes, Mailor is a friendly, encouraging, and outgoing individual. Her persistence in getting what she needs done shows that almost anything that she sets her mind to is possible. Although her list of commitments would say otherwise, Mailor still feels there is more in her time at UCI to get involved with, demonstrating her endless desire to expand her already rich experience here and to reach more people. “I can do much more for the campus” she says, “it would be nice to branch out.”