The past is a constant source of inspiration for designers everywhere, but for Michelle Lai, founder of Mischa, the past is more a bridge to the present. Throughout Lai's collections, reclaimed vintage Japanese obi and kimono fabrics take on new forms when recreated into handmade clutches, totes and travel accessories. With each piece coveted for its rare and one-of-a kind beauty, it is no surprise the label, established in 2004, had grown exponentially and gathered a cult of fans across the world.
Tell us a little bit about the concept behind Mischa.
I started Mischa as a hobby after having been traveling around Asia a lot and had an obsession with all things Japanese. I studied Japanese language and art in school and have always had a thing for ancient arts, in particular Asian mystique. I sewed my first collection of handbags from my own stash of vintage Obi (the silk sash of the kimono) and sold them at trunk shows and to private friends and clients, and it grew from there.
It is apparent that each of your designs carries its own story. How do your collections take on their own meanings? How do their meanings separate your products from handbags by other Hong Kong based labels?
Well, there are so many talented designers that I admire. I think our brands are an extension of oneself and a reflection our own personal style, so by definition we are different. We may use the similar materials or make bags for the same occasions, but the sillhouettes are very different, the motivation and styling is very different too.
What is your favorite or most memorable Mischa piece and why?
That would have to be the very first Obi clutch bag I ever made. I made it out of a red kimono that my Godmother had handed down to me. I still have it today, though my sewing skills have improved so much since then!
What inspired you to create the Travel Series collection?
After making clutch bags from vintage fabrics for my glamorous clientele, they also wanted utility wear for their travels. They quite literally are world travelers, have many interests and live very active lives. They had been asking for something by Mischa that they could extend into their day to day life, and I had been working on designing my signature print for quite some time. The aesthetic is very classic and based on old world style, but with my interlocking hexagon print and bright colours, which gives it the modern twist and Mischa touch. I wanted to create a print and a collection which would stand the test of time, and not be a passing fad. The interlocking hexagon pattern was inspired by the hexagon prints from the obi that I'd used over the years. The hexagon is a the stylised representation of the sea tortoise's shell, which symbolises longevity. I thought that would be a fitting sentiment for my brand and my aspiration to create things that are long lasting.
Mischa goes around the world!
What three items can always be found in your suitcase?
Sunglasses, Little Black dress and a Mischa tote
What are your top three favorite items sold on L-atitude?
Besides my own designs, I am obsessed with jewellery! Here are the top three on my wish list