For this month’s installment of the TransfORming Our Globe blog series, we’re sharing the story of alumna, Leona Songhee Lee ’04, who is dedicating her career to keeping the arts alive and culture thriving.
Leona was born in Seoul, Korea. When she turned 14, she made the bold decision to move around the world, to study abroad in Canada. Her first year was spent on Victoria Island, before moving eastward, to study at Ridley.
It can be difficult to adjust to such a drastic change, but quickly, Leona settled in and began exploring what Ridley had to offer. She appreciated the opportunity to stay active – playing squash, badminton, softball and participating in swimming – and she found her time in chapel peaceful and restorative. However, most impactful was her involvement in the arts. From art history classes to lesson on technique, Leona was able to explore a vast number of art forms and practices, and decide which medium she enjoyed most. In Grade 11, her curriculum included a unit on jewelry design, which would lay the foundation for her career.
With guidance from her Ridley teachers, Leona went on to study at the Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design. While at the world-renowned art school, she refined her craft and broadened her horizons. She even began to explore the business marketing side of art and design.
Flash forward to 2010 and the launch of ELYONA. Born from a desire to create high-quality and fashion-forward designs, Leona brought her own jewelry line to life. First launching in London, UK, with plans to bring it to Korea – a place where this style of jewelry had yet to appear.
Now, just shy of a decade old, ELYONA has rapidly made a mark on the fashion industry. Not only is Leona’s line carried in 55 stores, in 16 countries, but ELYONA has also participated in global fashion events, including Paris, London and Seoul Fashion Weeks.
With plans to continue growing her brand, Leona hopes to return to school to learn more about the business side of her career. With this newfound knowledge, she would be able to explore the field of design management and bring these skills to ELYONA.
Leona discovered her passion and found a way to weave it into her career. To Ridleians who are seeking their own pathway, she encourages them to follow their heart and persevere until everything falls into place.