by Alexandra Nicole Nuralam

Justine Lee on Work Ethics, Mindful Content and Beauty

BEAUBIT delves deeper with Justine Lee, former fashion director of Hong Kong Tatler, on all things fashion and beauty.

Born in California and raised in Hong Kong, Justine Lee is the chic combination of when East meets West — the former being a strict dedication to her skincare routine (a.k.a a loyalty to efficient and effective products) and the latter, a laissez-faire approach to dressing up; an aesthetic that is reflected in her work for Barneys, Harper’s Bazaar, Lane Crawford and Hong Kong Tatler. The Parsons School of Design graduate is now a freelance stylist and writer.

While her Instagram page features mostly minimalist-chic fashion inspiration and her vast body of styling work, we caught up with the style icon instead to delve deeper into her fashion and beauty picks.

What’s your story? Where did you grow up and what do you do now?

I was born in San Francisco, but I grew up and went to school in Hong Kong. I moved to New York for college and spent some time in Beijing shortly after. My career in fashion started during college—I was at Parsons in New York City so I spent my summers and my semesters in school doing fashion internships.

My most memorable internship was at Harper’s Bazaar, where I got a glimpse of how a magazine ran. I also spent a summer back in Hong Kong interning in the Creative Services and PR departments at Lane Crawford. My manager and I became good friends, kept in touch and he hired me when I graduated. I spent three years at Lane Crawford in marketing, where I worked on the launch of Phoebe Philo’s first Celine collection, Victoria Beckham’s RTW line, and a special capsule collection with Opening Ceremony.

After a stint freelancing, I joined Hong Kong Tatler as their Fashion Editor and stayed in the company for almost five years — I oversaw all the fashion content for print and digital, styled cover shoots and regional fashion editorials, and worked closely with brands on special projects and stories. I left my post as Fashion Director late last year and have happily moved back into the freelance space, where I style, write and consult.

What’s the most precious item in your wardrobe and why?

My Chanel jackets which I’ve collected over the years, a sequinned jumpsuit from Halpern that makes me feel like Cher, and a bunch of my old Saint Laurent pieces that I’ve worn to death. I feel like ‘precious’ makes it sound very delicate, but for me, I think the most valuable pieces in my wardrobe are the things that get a lot of wear.

What is the most valuable professional lesson you have learned?

The importance of having a strong work ethic, and it’s something I’ve learnt over time.

What do beauty and fashion as a whole mean to you?

“My motto is you have to feel good to look good.”

If you’re not feeling comfortable in what you’re wearing or your makeup, then it’s probably not right for you.

Let’s talk about your beauty routine. What does it look like?

I like to stick to what works, and I’m trying to finish up all the products I have on my shelves before buying new ones. With that said, there are a few things I’ve been loyal to for years. My skin’s been acting up lately, so I’ve been using lots of sensitive and anti-inflammatory products. I use Physiogel’s cleanser to remove my makeup, Cetaphil to wash my face, and then followed by Dr Barbara Sturm’s Hyaluronic Serum (SGD380) or Night Serum (SGD370). Lastly, the Dr Barbara Sturm Brightening Face Cream (SGD321) and La Mer’s Eye Concentrate (SGD270).

As for makeup, I don’t use foundation — it’s too hot in Hong Kong most of the year, and it just melts away. I use a lot of Hourglass’s products (their primer, concealer and eyebrow pencil) and Chanel for bronzer, eyeshadow and lip colours. For fragrance, it’s Frederic Malle. I’ve been using French Lover for years.

I’m also on an ongoing quest to find the best lip balm on the market. I’ve tried them all, high and low. For premium, Hermès Beauty‘s lip balm (SGD103) is the best (it’s almost too pretty to use!). In a jar, it’s Dr Barbara Sturm’s (SGD65). Other notable mentions are La Mer’s lip balm (SGD130).

What is the most exciting beauty purchase you’ve made recently and why?

It wasn’t necessarily a purchase, but I went to see a naturopath recently for my skin. I had eczema as a child and it flares up every now and then and has never really gone away. During quarantine, it flared up in a pretty bad way—all over my neck, face and arms. I saw a dermatologist, a traditional Chinese one and then a naturopath, who had me do a bunch of tests to really get to the root of the problem. A lot of what happens to our skin is determined by what we put in our bodies. There were some vitamins and supplements I was deficient in. I also had to switch over to some skin-sensitive solutions, such as makeup removers and skincare. Not necessarily the most exciting, but I’m seeing results!

Justine’s Beauty Picks
Dr Barbara Sturm’s Hyaluronic Serum, SGD380
Dr. Barbara Sturm Night Serum, SGD370
La Mer Eye Concentrate, SGD270
Dr Barbara Sturm Brightening Face Cream, SGD321
Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer, SGD89
Hermès Beauty Lip Balm, SGD103, available in Hèrmes boutiques
Dr Barbara Sturm Lip Balm, SGD65
La Mer The Lip Balm, SGD130
Frederic Malle French Lover Eau de Parfum, SGD200

How do you think the fashion and creative industry will change after COVID-19?

I think the traditional model of the fashion industry is going to change substantially. The speed at which things were expected to land on magazine pages, hit stores and only be marked down months after will need to change. The notion of fashion shows and experiences I think will also be redefined.

Consumers will also re-evaluate the rate in which they shop, and what they buy—it’s a new era and I think the focus will be on more mindful content and careful purchases.

If you liked Justine’s story, there’s plenty more to come, just hit the ‘Sign Up’ button at the bottom to receive the latest round-up.