2 Minutes With … Pum Lefebure, CCO of Design Army

On Gucci, Saucony, the Hong Kong Ballet, and the power of the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella

Pum Lefebure is the co-founder and chief creative officer of Design Army in Washington, D.C. An award-winning creative director and savvy business leader, Pum has developed numerous international campaigns for high-profile clients such as Adobe, Netflix, Neenah Paper, The Ritz-Carlton, PepsiCo, Saucony, Hong Kong Ballet and the Smithsonian.

Born in Thailand, she brings a global sensibility to American design—a creative point of view that draws from different cultures and resonates with diverse audiences. Guided by an entrepreneurial edge, Pum has elevated Design Army's reputation as a trendsetter, while establishing her own hallmark: a distinctive union of the artistic and the commercial. With a rare balance of creativity, strategic thinking and industry savvy, she has proven that good design is the cornerstone of good business.

We spent two minutes with Pum to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations, and recent work she's admired.

Pum, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

Born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand. Made in Washington, D.C., USA.

How you first realized you were creative.

My favorite toy growing up was a set of colored pencils—they were my magic wand. Through art, I was able to do anything, go anywhere, and become an awesome kid at school. I loved to win the art competitions for my school.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

When I was young, all my girlfriends wanted to be Cinderella. I always thought the Fairy Godmother was way cooler. She could turn pumpkins into a golden carriage. I wanted to have that magical power to make the impossible, possible. Why wait for Prince Charming to put the glass slipper on you when you can create your own?

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

When I first saw the United Colors of Benetton "Priest and Nun" ad by Oliviero Toscani, I knew I wanted to have a career in design and advertising. The ad was so powerful and provocative—it made you think and rethink, yet remember the brand.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

Willem de Kooning. His abstract paintings move me. I can feel his emotion in every brush stroke. He creates the most beautiful color combinations you can imagine, and it's best to see in person! Art is pure. It moves you inside. No explanation needed.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

I listen to business podcasts on my treadmill in the morning. I recently re-watched Bob Iger's Masterclass on business, strategy and leadership, which is super inspiring.

Your favorite fictional character.

The Fairy Godmother in Cinderella.

Someone or something worth following in social media.

@ad_magazine for interior design inspiration, @yolojournal for travel, @hypebeast for what's going on in culture, @hauserwirth for interesting art, @bof for what's new in the fashion business.

How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.

During the pandemic, the world paused and I had to take a break from traveling—which I love!—but ironically it was so good for me. I was able to really be with my daughter and enjoy family dinners every night for two years—this was an amazing and wonderful rarity. Normally, I'd have been on a plane heading to a speaking engagement, judging or photo shoot … and missing out on my daughter's last years at home before college.  

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.

Hong Kong Ballet 40th Anniversary! We turned an often-misunderstood art form into a crazy fun, joyful experience that's completely relatable worldwide. The campaign is modern, but also authentically Hong Kong—it's the "awkward beauty" that makes this work unique. And par for Design Army, it's art direction on steroids.

Hong Kong Ballet 40th Anniversary Season Brand Video
A recent project you're proud of.

We've been working with Saucony over the past year—creating global campaigns, photoshoots, new product initiatives and experiences. The House of Speed popup that we conceived for Paris Fashion Week was so fun, mashing design, typography, film and experience all into one moment for the brand. 

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

Tibor Kalman, a creative genius of graphic design. The Colors magazine showed the world—the real world. For me, it was the first time I saw that photographs and images could convey powerful ideas as much as words on a page could. He inspired me to study graphic design.

Someone else's work you admired lately.

Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele. He's a true visionary. No matter how big a company grows, you need true creative talent to fuel business. Vision is something everyone can buy into. Currently, no one sells the dream better than Gucci!

Your main strength as a creative person.

I always have a clear vision of how to lead our design team to create the seemingly impossible. Five words that best describe me: passion, relentless, clarity, precision, entrepreneurial.  

Your biggest weakness.

I don't know how to cook. I blow things up in the microwave and set off smoke alarms—all the time.

One thing that always makes you happy.

Seeing my daughter Sophie grow and blossom into a strong, independent woman who can think for herself.

One thing that always makes you sad.

The elderly. If I see someone walking baby steps to prevent falling or ambling with a cane while toting belongings, or anyone eating by themselves—it always makes me sad … life is too short to be alone.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.

I would be a trend forecaster who travels the world to predict the unpredictable future.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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