Zizi Li was one of four designers selected by our panel of celebrated women in Fashion, Entertainment and Philanthropy to win our most recent contest, Design For Her Education. The contest was in collaboration with WomenOne, a non-profit devoted to creating positive change in the lives of women and girls globally through access to quality education. You can see the rest of the winning designs here, and check out WomenOne and their work here. Zizi is a successful and hardworking individual, with an interesting background and a unique take on life. 

Tell us your story. What inspired you to participate in MSC’s #Design4HerEducation contest?

I’ve always been really drawn to charity and art, and the intersection of the two is something I’ve explored heavily through the Zizi Foundation, which I started when I was fifteen. The way art can be used as a medium to convey beauty but also, simultaneously, charity and philanthropy has always been a great passion of mine. With these interests and the graphic design skills I’ve learned at Parsons University’s Strategic Design and Management program, this competition was the perfect fit for me.

Another layer of this competition has made it very special to me. I come from a line of four generations of strong, independent women who have inspired me and, particularly from my mother, I’ve learned that being a woman isn’t just about the beauty — it’s deeper than that. It’s about intellect, knowledge; resolve of who you are at your core, and especially education. This competition represents all of that, and with the focus on education, it has really hit home. I’ve seen the impact an education can have on someone’s life, so I’m thrilled to be a part of helping to make that possible for women around the world.

Take us on a journey back to Japan (your home!). What’s the first thing you look forward to when you step off the plane?

The temples in Kyoto in one of the most authentic districts of the city — plus the delicious sushi, of course!

What goals do you hope to achieve in designing a life and career you love?

My dream job is to work in an industry that is both creative and intellectually stimulating, and also full of challenges. Being on the business and management side of the fashion industry is something I’m super interested in. Building a career where I can use my international background and fluency in Mandarin and Japanese would be a huge perk, too. So, in terms of goals I’d love to achieve, I’m thrilled to say I’m getting the chance to achieve them right now, because I’m interning at Chanel this summer to gain hands-on experience at what could very well be considered the world’s most prestigious fashion house.

You’re incredibly accomplished, and still have so much more left to do. What achievements are you most proud of?

I really think launching my Foundation has been one of my proudest achievements. The Zizi Foundation raises funds through the publication of the paintings, postcards, and calendars, which I design and create by hand. Painting has always been something very close to me — it’s serene and healing all at once. To be able to transfer that restorative, peaceful energy is a gift in and of itself, because it’s the essence of doing something I love that then goes back into helping others as well.

In the fashion world, I’ve also had the chance to work in the PR division of the House of Zac Posen with Zac himself, spending a great deal of time not only with the designer but also with his great team and all of the editors and guests who would interact with us. My language skills came into use there and it was spectacular experience that I can parlay in the future.

Currently to be working alongside the Digital Marketing team at Chanel as an intern this summer is incredible! Chanel is my favorite brand in everyday life so it’s a dream to work here. I’m discovering so much about customer relationship management that stems out of what I’ve been learning at Parsons that I know it’s going to be a really exciting few months.

Finally, of course, another project I’ve been so proud to be a part of is this My Social Canvas #Design4HerEducation competition and receiving this award. The scholarship is the cherry on top of the cake — I feel really lucky and delighted to be a part of giving back and supporting this cause.


Hobby? I love to build really cool terrariums by hand. Capturing the beauty and color of each different kind of flower reminds me that nature can be art, too.

Favorite must-have summer anthem on your iPod? A classic: Lana del Rey’s “Video Games.”
Favorite book? The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Summer beauty tip? Red lipstick.

Ideal afternoon? Spent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art! Nothing better than immersing oneself amidst all of the beautiful paintings, portraits, and sculptures that fill each chamber to the brim.

Summer fashion tip? Linen — it’s lightweight, perfect for the warm weather, and moves with the breeze.

Favorite vacation spot? Paris, the City of Light!