Local fashion designer Sarah Lai brings elegance and a touch of glamour to her pieces, with romance always in mind
At Honeycombers Hong Kong, we always keep an eye on the latest fashion and beauty trends, such as Korean makeup, intergalactic nails and the most beautiful lingerie in the city. We chat with local fashion designer Sarah Lai behind Sarah Lai Label about her Romance Reborn series and to see what made her fall in love with fashion.
Hi Sarah. Thanks for sitting down with us. What made you start the brand Sarah Lai Label?
Hong Kong clothes are getting so expensive. You either go to Zara, where you end up wearing the same clothes as your colleagues, or you find something unique but really expensive. So I wanted to create something that’s designer but also more affordable, something niche, cool and chic that stays in your wardrobe, season after season. I established the brand as my side project in 2014 after a lot of reading and researching.
So you weren’t always been in the fashion and design field, when did that change?
I was born and raised in Hong Kong. I went to local schools in Hong Kong and then studied in the States for five years. I actually started my career at a financial institution in private banking. After doing that for eight years, I felt like my learning curve was a bit flat. I wanted to do something more. Even though I have other hobbies, I have always loved fashion the most. I read so much about fashion, and I also shop quite a lot! (laughs)
Sometimes, I would lead the trends in the office, and I realised fashion and design was my passion. So I used my annual leave to go to Central Saint Martins, London to take short courses to learn more about how to set up a fashion brand.
Is it difficult to juggle between a full-time job and a growing designer brand?
It actually takes up more time than I expected. And a lot is about reading, finding the right people to help you, and knowing what to delegate. I think it took a lot of courage and bravery to do that. Looking back, knowing all the challenges and hiccups I’ve encountered, I probably wouldn’t have the courage to do it again. But I’ve never regretted it. I’ve learnt so much which nobody will ever be able to teach me. Lots of things are doable, it’s just a matter of passion, determination and how much you want it, and sacrifice.
What’s the essence of Sarah Lai Label?
It would be modern, timeless and elegant. That’s the essence. In terms of modern, the pieces are made for modern women; timeless, I hope each piece can last in a wardrobe for a long time; elegant… it’s me and my brand. I wear my designs very often, so often that everyone knows! (laughs)
Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?
I think a lot of my inspiration come from my daily life, what’s around me. For example, my apartment faces the sea, I often see the waves, hence the ruffles on my designs. Sometimes, I stare at the sea but I’m thinking about something else. It’s the repulse of the water that kind of links me to ruffles. I’m also a romantic person who is interested in romantic art, so romantic ideas have always been in my designs.
How long is the typical design process for a new series?
It usually takes me around six to eight months to design a new series from scratch. I want design well instead of following the fashion seasons and doing something that is subpar. Nowadays, most customers don’t really care about seasons. It’s a marketing thing that the fashion world created so people will chase after it. People will buy off-season products as long as it fits them well.
Can you tell me more about your new Romance Reborn series?
For series one of Romance Reborn, they’re all 100% cotton; they’re cute and perfect for a date, and I’ve incorporated more ruffles making them more romantic. Some of the names are guys’ names, such as The Dixie Blouse and The Charles Blouse, as I followed some features from men’s wear. For series two, it’s mostly velvet. They’re elegant, great for formal occasions but also very versatile.
Do you think you will be a full-time fashion designer one day?
Hong Kong’s fashion landscape is very competitive because of the real estate. It takes longer to really branch out. But at the same time my finance career side is also going pretty well for me, and I’m actually really enjoying it too. For now, I don’t think I need to choose.
Shop Sarah Lai Label online.