Fashionista Of The Month
-Lisa Hsieh –
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hello! My name is Lisa Hsieh. I live in beautiful Long Beach, California with my husband, our three-week-old son Greysen, and our West Highland Terrier Winston. I studied fine art in college and worked in the Los Angeles fashion industry after I graduated. I also worked in interior design for a couple of years in between and ultimately came back to the apparel industry and started my first clothing line, Fleet Collection, in 2011 with a partner. After outgrowing Fleet Collection, I launched my second line, Mien Studios, in 2015. I am currently running the business on my own from my home studio. During my spare time – which is very little at the moment with a newborn – I enjoy painting, cooking, and having family and friends over for dinner parties.
2) We love that you started your own clothing line, can you tell us a little more about Mien Studios and the startup process?
I started Mien with the idea of creating a brand that offers high quality, American-made clothing and accessories for people who are looking to fill their closets with beautifully crafted, sophisticated pieces. For me, it’s important that my business combines my interests in fashion, graphic design, photography, and art. By starting my own clothing company, I’m able to utilize my skill sets and create branding, graphics and creative direction for my collections. Having worked in the Los Angeles fashion industry, I’m familiar with the process of how to take a garment from design to production. The crucial factor is finding the right artisans and manufacturers that have the same vision as I do to make sure the final products are high quality and something I’m proud to pass on to my buyers.
3) What makes Mien Studios Different ?
Mien is a small brand and makes pieces in very limited quantities so what you purchase is surely very special. I don’t like following the fashion seasons (that’s 5 seasons a year!) because rather than wasting our planet’s natural resources on overproduction and overextending myself, I introduce new designs as they are ready at a pace that ensures each piece is well designed and well made. Being in Southern California, the weather is always mild so I design my pieces to be seasonless and exude casual luxury without sacrificing comfort.
4) How many people are working with you?
My business just got started and it’s small so I run the day-to-day operations on my own – this means in addition to designing the line, I handle marketing, graphic design, accounting and any other business needs. I do most everything myself for now but I’ll have to hire help as the business grows. For the sample-making and production process, I work with a small team of professional sample makers, cutters and sewers in Los Angeles to produce my designs. When it comes to fulfilling and shipping orders, my family and friends are now always on hand to help since I just delivered my baby three weeks ago. The beauty of having my own business is that I can tailor it to suit my personal life in times like these. It’s wonderful to be able to run my business the way I want to while being able to be there for my son.
5) What is your process to planning a new line? For example can you tell us how you first get inspired, then do you draw sketches, gather fabrics, etc?
Everything always starts with my hand sketch. I have a growing collection of sketch books from constantly drawing and sketching ideas for new designs. I’m a visual person so I collect images from papers and magazines that I come across to build a mood board for inspiration. I also visits art galleries and flip through as many art books that I can get my hands on to fuel the creative process.
Once I finalize a design that I am happy with, I create a package which contains not only the design sketch in detail but also critical measurements and notes for the production team. Most of the time I design based on a fabric that I like. Sometimes the process is reversed and it can take me a while to find the right fabric and trim for a design I’ve already drawn up. Once everything is put together, it is passed on to the sample makers and I work with them over time until the sample and fit is perfect before I approve the design for production.
6) What is your advice to girls that want to start their own fashion line?
It’s important to consider what you envision your business to be in 3 years, 5 years, even 10 years and whether or not you can grow the business to fit what your personal plans are in the future. Having realistic expectations and a plan to build your business without sacrificing important life goals will prevent disappointment and frustrations later on. I always knew I wanted children so when I started Mien, I created a business plan that should enable me to grow my business while allowing me to raise my family. Of course, it’s important to be flexible and make changes as your business (and your life!) grows.
My advice is to start small and start slow. It’s great to have a passion for fashion design but starting a business and making a living off of your talents is a completely different challenge. Design becomes a small part of the big picture and the rest is all related to business acumen. Be humble, work hard, but realize that no business owner can wear all the hats and still be good at everything. Know when to ask for help and seek advice from others. Make friends and network! Building a business is a journey that is more fun with others along the ride beside you.
(First photo by @annienguyen)
7) Anything else you’d like to share with us?
Life is unpredictable, and if you own your business or plan to start one, any changes in your personal life could potentially dramatically affect your business. When I was in the process of starting Mien, I also became pregnant with my first child. I was driving around L.A. sourcing materials, going to meetings, and visiting my factories with a big pregnant belly. Now that the baby is born, I am learning how to operate my business while being a first-time mom. I am also figuring out ways to become more efficient and make changes in the business model to suit my new lifestyle. It’s a constant learning process. Having an open mind and learning not to sweat the small stuff have helped me tremendously in adjusting to my new life. Be confident in yourself and your vision, no matter what it is, and just remember that being happy is the most important end goal.
(First photo by @c.phraph)