Designer Michelle Lai decided on a fashion career path that was very different from her studies at King College London. She is one of the few who has taken the plunge to follow her passion into the often finicky world of fashion and succeeded in creating a global brand with distribution in France, Italy, US, China, Indonesia, South Korea, Singapore and China. Her bags are inherently stylish and have achieved cult status amongst the city’s fashionable people and beyond our shores.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how MISCHA came to be..
I began my fashion career after studying Medical Sciences at Kings College in London. My family moved to Hong Kong when I was a teenager. I remember as children, my grandmother used to dress my sister and I in beautifully tailored coats and dresses. My family has always encouraged me in my creative pursuits, so when I debuted my collection of clutch bags, they fully supported what began as a hobby. I’d sewn the whole collection from my personal vintage obi and kimono that I’d collected over the years from my visits to Japan. This resulted in traveling trunk shows, requests from stockists and the decision to launch MISCHA in 2008. While traveling frequently to source vintage textiles, it inspired me to create a travel inspired line with the signature hexagon monogram, which is what MISCHA is most known for today.
A new project you are currently working on and what’s lined up for MISCHA in 2014?
My goal is to create a lifestyle brand for aspirational women who are confident with their own personal style and for MISCHA to become a contemporary classic brand. Though I love glamour and dress up, I don’t follow the latest trends. I try to buy classic items of clothing and accessories that are timeless. I’m most excited about us launching in Paris! There are also a few collaborations in the pipeline, you’ll have to wait and see!
Describe your style…
Comfortable and versatile with a little va va voom!
An expression of passion for something, whether its an expertly crafted stiletto heel, or a slick piece of furniture, or a pocket in just the right place. I think good design is all about thoughtful details.
A quote that inspires you…
“The best things in life are free. The second best are very expensive.” – Coco Chanel.
Best advise you’ve been given…
Go with your gut feeling.
Toughest thing you had to do to launch MISCHA…
Launching a new brand is always challenging and doing so without prior experience in the industry has been a steep learning curve. Many nights of sleep have been lost as result of the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with running a business.
Who do you think has great taste / style in clothes…
Marion Cotillard, screen siren at the same time could be your best friend, she must have a stylist! I love Alexa Chung’s boyish style. She makes looking cool so easy. Stylist Tina Leung gets is always on point.
What does your work wardrobe consist of mostly?
Heels or a colourful pair of ballerinas. Whatever season it is, I choose something that is versatile and flattering. In the summer time I always opt for colourful dresses that can go from work to play. In the colder months, I’m all about skinny jeans, boots and masculine shirts, layered with knitwear.
A style mantra…
You can’t go wrong with a little black dress! If the shoe fits, buy it in every colour!
The top 3 places in Hong Kong you buy your clothes and accessories from…
I love Zara and Lane Crawford for clothes. Inner wear from Sheer. For accessories, I generally buy them when I’m traveling and see something special but in HK I love accessories from Marijoli.
Top 3 online stores..
Top website and instagram you follow…
- Business of Fashion.com – for industry news
- TED – inspirational talks
- Refinery29 – for style and fashion
- Upworthy – for uplifting news stories
- BuzzFeed – my guilty pleasure, I love lists!
- Gary Pepper Vintage – because she’s just gorgeous
- Dailycandy – has a bit of everything
3 places on your travel itinerary for 2014, where will you be staying or want to stay at the 3 places…
I’ll be in Koh Samui next for my yearly retreat. I always come back well rested and ready for another action packed year after this. Then Paris, we are launching MISCHA at Franck et Fils and they are doing an exhibition on Geometric themes for fashion week!
I haven’t planned anything yet but a friend of mine has recently moved to India and we’ve thinking about an adventure in Rajasthan. At some point I would love to go diving in the Maldives.
One change you want to make in the world…
That’s a hefty question! I think everyone has hidden potential that they are not fully aware of. I would say inspiring them to discover their passion and reach for their dreams would make everyone have happier and more fulfilling lives.
Photographer: Joyce Yung