The Story Behind Keungzai and ICONS by Keungzai
Keungzai was born out of a personal passion to create ethical, quality clothing with a timeless aesthetic. The brand serves women who are not slaves to fashion but whom lead the style conversation with contemporary yet timeless looks.
The Keungzai woman enjoys investing in the foundations of her wardrobe and adding a few key pieces each season. She enjoys the knowledge that her clothes are made ethically and appreciates quality rather than fast-fashion fads. The collection offers women essential styling blocks, accented with bold prints and luxurious textures.
“I want to empower women with the choice of affordable luxury clothing that fits into her busy, everyday lifestyle.” – Michelle Lee, Founder of Keungzai.
ICONS by Keungzai and Keungzai collections are focused on delivering modern looks crafted in premium materials with attention to detail and quality.
KEUNGZAI, est. 2011.
A contemporary label for style-savvy women, mothers and mums-to-be. Affordable luxury for modern women, during and after pregnancy.
ICONS by Keungzai, est. 2014.
A premium womenswear brand. A capsule collection of iconic staple pieces, juxtaposed with bold prints and luxurious textures.
“Keungzai’s customer is not defined by age or life-stage but by a common style-aesthetic of directional yet timeless appeal.” – Michelle Lee, Founder of Keungzai.
The Back Story
Keungzai began in 2011, founded by Michelle Lee. Frustrated by the lack of choice and quality of bump-friendly clothing during her pregnancy in 2009, she developed a versatile womenswear line she wishes she could’ve worn before, during and after pregnancy. Keungzai is the go-to brand for women, mothers and mums-to-be seeking something unique and distinctive with a little luxury.
After creating the branding and concept, Michelle Lee sought out the finest modal jersey, knitted and dyed locally in Leicestershire, England. Keungzai’s debut collection featured super soft finishes and fluid drapey silhouettes. Each piece in the collection was crafted and finished by British seamstresses in a local studio based in Derbyshire, receiving a seal of approval by celebrity Sienna Miller.
Two years on, Michelle created ICONS by Keungzai in response to customer and buyer requests. A very welcome additional creative outlet. ICONS by Keungzai is a premium womenswear brand delivering contemporary pieces to the modern woman’s wardrobe with attention to detail and quality. ICONS’ debut collection for Autumn Winter 2015 presents a 12-piece capsule collection consisting of iconic staple pieces alongside bespoke, unique prints and premium fabrics.
What does Keungzai mean?
Keungzai is simply the brand name encompassing all things beautiful, empowering, ethical and contemporary.
Where did the name come from?
Michelle’s son is named Mali Chi Keung. His Chinese middle name ‘Chi Keung’ translates to ‘strong character’. Keung-zai originated from here.
I’m not pregnant, why would I buy Keungzai?
Keungzai collections are designed to adapt to changing body shapes, allowing each piece to be maternity friendly and some special pieces are also nursing friendly. You don’t have to be pregnant to wear Keungzai but it’s an extra bonus that the styles will work for you during and after pregnancy. If you’re still not sure, luckily for you, in 2015 Keungzai will launch ‘ICONS by Keungzai’ a premium womenswear brand completely focused on womenswear only. Why not try out both?
Who designs the collection?
The founder and director of Keungzai, Michelle Lee, creates all the concepts, sources the fabrics and designs all the collections.
What is Michelle’s background?
Michelle graduated with a 1st Class in BA (Hons) Fashion Marketing and Communications at Nottingham Trent University. After a few short stints at House of Fraser, EMAP and various PR / media companies, she then went on to work at ASOS.com within the own brand womenswear buying department. At ASOS.com she learned the foundations and processes of clothing production and e-commerce, all of the knowledge and skills acquired from her time there still prove to be invaluable assets to this day.
It was during her time at ASOS.com where Michelle fell pregnant and endured the daily dilemmas of dressing her changing shape. Michelle, aged only 23 years old, took time out during maternity leave and used this time to re-evaluate her life goals and ambitions. After a difficult period, adjusting to life with a newborn baby and suffering post-natal depression, she reluctantly resigned from ASOS.com in order to re-locate closer to her family home and took up a job in visual merchandising at fast-fashion store Forever 21. This turned out to be the tipping point in the early start of her career. Fast-fashion, it turned out, was not for her. Michelle took a leap of faith, started to write a business plan and sought out to fulfil her life dream to succeed in her own business.
At the age of 24, Michelle launched Keungzai.com with a maternity-friendly capsule collection. With no formal design qualifications but a sharp eye for detail and a genuine desire to empower likeminded women, Michelle continued to develop and design new collections while her label steadily gained more critical acclaim by fashion editors from the likes of Harper’s Bazaar, STYLIST, Stylenest and Smallish magazine.
In 2015, 3 years after launching the first Keungzai collection, Michelle will be introducing a new sister label to the site – ICONS by Keungzai. A premium womenswear brand designed to empower women with an affordable luxury collection consisting of iconic staples pieces, luxurious textures and directional prints.
Alongside Keungzai, Michelle continues to freelance for small, independent businesses offering online marketing consultancy and social media management services.
Where are your collections produced?
Michelle was lucky to find a local studio in Derbyshire where each pattern is created from her sketches by a very talented pattern cutter. Each pattern is then sampled and fitted to our fit model. Once the fits are approved, the collections are manufactured to a high standard of quality in the same studio by British seamstresses. A small number of pieces are also made in London.
Where are your offices?
Our registered office address is: 125 Zellig, The Custard Factory, Gibb Street, Birmingham, B9 4AA; however, Michelle likes to work from her home office and visit the studio in Derbyshire when developing collections. It’s a multi-tasking, entrepreneurial, freelancing, parenting life!
Why are your clothes so pricey?
Now this is awkward. A few people comment how affordable the collections are in comparison with the quality of the garments but we can’t ignore the question often posed across the web.
The Keungzai brand values ethically produced clothing with attention to detail and quality. This has to come at a cost and as a small, independent label, Keungzai unfortunately doesn’t have the same bargaining power that a brand with hundreds of bricks and mortar retail stores might have, who orders thousands of units in one style. Think more like, 20-50 units per style.
Keungzai collections are produced using premium materials that Michelle personally handpicks and for every 100 metres a designer buys in fabric, the price per metre of this fabric is reduced. So, if a production only needs say 50m, Keungzai is then forced to pay a premium price compared with a brand that orders 1000m of the same style.
The advantage for you is knowing you’re buying a style that has very limited production. In addition to this, each item is designed, developed and made in the UK by highly skilled professionals who are all paid a fair wage. We do not support the use of ‘sweatshops’ nor children under the working age producing clothing. Ethically produced clothing can be produced offshore and we are working toward extending our range to offer a wider price range. However, our current focus is ensuring we deliver high quality garments designed for discerning women, created by talented creatives.
Where can I try on your clothes?
Please visit our International Stockists list. We don’t currently have a bricks and mortar store, though we would love to one day. You can shop at www.keungzai.com and try on the clothes in the comfort of your own home. Rest assured you are able to return any unsuitable purchases within 21 days for an exchange or a full refund. Please refer to our Delivery and Returns Policy for more information.
If you would like to request a personal shopping appointment, please e-mail [email protected].
Will you be making a cheaper range?
The brand’s focus remains producing quality collections that empower women with affordable luxury collections designed to suit their busy lifestyles. We will never support fast-fashion fads nor poor working conditions with a select few overseas manufactures. However, we do intend to keep growing our collections ensuring we can offer the best quality and value for money with a wider price range to make our brand as accessible as feasibly possible while retaining our brand values. Watch this space!