Lisa Qu is a 21 year old entrepreneur making her mark in one of the most ephemeral industries out there – fashion. As one of the many young designers championing responsible and sustainable fashion, Lisa makes her garments locally in small batches. Lisa’s brand represents a growing trend of quality over quantity. Unique and yet simple, her aesthetic pairs nicely with the overall message of the brand.
Lisa had the following to divulge and more:
What made you decide to get into fashion?
When I was five years old I would make dresses out of tissues and tape for my Barbies. I went through boxes of Kleenexes and a whole roll of scotch tape. My mum was so mad but I was happy because my Barbies had something nice to wear to their party that day.
Then when I was twelve, I made my first dress in my high school Textiles and Design class. The feeling of creating something beautiful that came from my own vision was surreal. That was my focus for the next six years leading up to my admission to Parsons School of Design in New York.
How do you keep up with current trends?
I’m not the biggest follower of trends because I’ve always had my own distinct style and way of dressing. I know what I like and it’s not always what’s currently “in” but is what I determine to be my personal style. I think that trends take an extraordinary amount of effort to follow and are impossible to predict. I’d rather invest in timeless pieces that will look chic now and also ten years from now regardless of the trend.
Your brand has a particular aesthetic, how would you describe it in your own words and how did it develop?
My aesthetic is a homage to my Eastern heritage and Western upbringing. It’s a fusion of complex origami structures and classic tailoring to emphasise the sensuality and power of the modern woman. It’s the reimagining of women’s workwear to create something that is uniquely feminine and emphasises the dominant characteristics of being a woman – in the same way that suits emphasise the dominance of men. It developed from many hours of experimentation. The methods of construction that were being taught at school weren’t thrilling or innovating, it kept producing the same shapes and silhouettes and over time I took on my own system of construction where I manipulate fabric like paper origami.
Do you perceive any direct challenges as a young female entrepreneur?
The biggest challenge I face on a daily basis is how to be assertive. At 21 years old it’s hard enough to get your peers to take you seriously, let alone the industry! It’s always a question of what could I possibly know being my age, how could I possibly understand this or that? As a female as well, sometimes my positivity is mistaken as naivety, my willingness to learn is seen as being weak or even cute and when I’m dominant, I’m just being moody. However, I’m very lucky that there is such a strong movement of supportive women out there that are working hard to counter these stereotypes.
How did you secure funding and get your business off the ground?
To get things up and running I saved what I could working as a waitress and before I went to Parsons, I was a full time sales associate for a luxury suiting brand. I realised that without the funds that I needed, I had to be really structured and efficient to prove to people that I had the right plan and that they should back me. I was then lucky enough to have interest from an investor who’s been instrumental to this whole process and my incredibly supportive family who helped me get things in place. There were some pretty scary times when taking such a big leap but it’s been so worth it and I’m very grateful to the support network around me.
All of your designs are sustainable. Why is this an important to you?
I see sustainability in fashion as a reduction in waste by creating garments of lasting quality and value. I think the “one wear buy” is a real problem of fast fashion where consumers purchase clothes seasonally and discard them after only a few uses. Why not invest in garments that will last you in both style and quality for years to come? All my garments are designed to be multi-occasion and timeless with an emphasis on modern tailoring and fine fabrics. This is what sustainability means to me.
How does your passion for the environment impact your personal habits outside of fashion?
Like my approach to sustainable fashion, I think it’s all about lasting habits that you keep with you throughout your life. My mum has drilled it into me that food wastage is one of the biggest sins I can commit so I always use any leftovers where I can.
Even little things like leaving lights and switches on matter to me – over a person’s lifetime, it really does add up.
What additional challenges does making clothing sustainably bring?
The design component is probably the hardest part. How do you make something that is universally flattering, modern and current but also timeless and classic? Creating a sustainable design is about answering all of these questions and producing it to the highest standards so that it can withstand the test of time. I produce everything in the heart of New York so I can directly oversee the quality of the garments being produced and the ethical labor in use – something you can’t always see in offshore production. I also only source fabrics from the best mills in Japan or the USA to ensure they are only produced on an as-needed-basis to reduce wastage.
What are the personal challenges you face as you grow your business? How do you maintain balance in your life?
My biggest personal challenge right now is balancing my final year of college, the business and maintaining a social life simultaneously. It’s a unique position to be 21 and have the social responsibilities of a college student but also the real-world responsibilities of being a business owner. I have such limited hours in the week it’s vital that I schedule and plan my days properly so that I can fit all the play, work and homework into my week! List making is like my version of meditation and I do it every morning when I wake up.
How do you take your coffee?
I love oat milk lattes which I think is a New York thing but trust me, it’ll change your life.
For more information visit Lisa Qu