Meet the woman behind the homegrown fashion label showcasing the beauty and strength of Asian women
How does your mixed heritage influence your designs?
Being mixed, with a grandfather who was a Chinese watercolour painter, I have a natural interest in exploring Asian art and design. Of course, having been raised in Canada, I ultimately have a Western outlook, and I love mixing the two. It’s about preserving and remixing the design heritage on this side of the world. I’ve always found it ironic that anything ethnic is considered fringe, and we all just accept Anglo style as our default. There is so much beauty in diversity.
“While I’m half Chinese and often use Chinese elements in my design, I’m actually just inspired by Asia in general. I research tribal textiles and style from across Southeast Asia, and am endlessly inspired by what the region’s history and people have to offer.”
As a globetrotter, how do your travel experiences shape your collections?
Sometimes a trip directly inspires a collection. For example, I’m going to tribal, mountainous, Philippines soon – and I can’t imagine that wouldn’t inspire a future collection. However, most times, it’s really just the act of getting outside the box, which shakes things up and inspires new perspectives.
What do you get inspired by upon visiting a new place?
I’m an anthropology nut; I will always visit the museums, and then go immerse myself in the culture that currently enlivens the place. I’m honestly not as inspired by ‘ruins’ which lost their spark ages ago, as compared to gritty, bustling centres where the pulse is still alive. For example, Angkor Wat, the Taj Mahal, the Colosseum — these places are beautiful, but they’re only dead symbols of what’s come and gone. It’s the people behind great civilizations, or cultural movements that most interest me.
Female empowerment lies at the heart of your brand. Was this influenced by your journey as an entrepreneur?
No, conversely, I think the fact that I am an empowered female led to me being an entrepreneur. Empowerment is really just about standing up for yourself – whether it’s at work, or in a relationship, or to the world at large. It’s about knowing who you are, what your values are, and feeling courageous to stand behind that. I had a tough childhood and learned to be a fighter. However, as I grew up, I learned that just living my truth was more powerful than constantly having my fists up.
“An empowered woman is grounded and has integrity. She does what she wants, gracefully and without apology. She is flexible to accommodate others and has a view of the community and how she is connected to it — but still puts her needs first.”
How do you hope to empower women through your ideas?
I design statement pieces that you can throw on with your basics and instantly look put together, eclectic and colourfully confident. The one feedback I always get from my clients is that our pieces make them feel “badass” and courageous. This is the best advice I could ever get.
“Lisa Von Tang’s aesthetic is truly different. It’s opulent but casual. It’s street-luxe, East-meets-West, and mixes a sense of power with swagger and sensuality. Our message of being a ‘Warrior of Love’ is core to who we are. I’ve had people ask me if it’s ‘too different’ from the current mainstream trends, but I’ve never been one to slavishly follow trends and neither have our fans.”
What are some challenges you face as both a designer and an entrepreneur with the incredibly fast pace of the fashion industry these days?
As a designer of non-cheap fast fashion, I still feel the pressure to be ‘fast’ and try to restock and deliver designs that sell out fast, as well as keep abreast with customer demands. It’s certainly a fast-paced game between reviewing analytics, designing, tweaking and getting items produced.
In terms of being a business owner, the greatest pressure I’ve felt is on “how to make retail great again?” Just having an online store is not enough. Brick and mortar is no longer enough. You really need to be inventive on how you reach people and how you share the brand story. I like taking people on a journey and making it unforgettable.
Can you tell us more about the I AM DURGA collection?
It’s inspired by the warrior goddess of the same name and has South Asian inspiration in its designs. I loved draping with this collection. It’s daring, chic, and has a touch of ethnicity – which you know I love.
What is the next step for your label?
Pushing our intimate event sales into a more mass, experiential world tour; taking the stories we tell on the catwalk to a larger audience in an exhibition format; streamlining the way we take bespoke orders to enable you to customize your favourite silhouettes online; as well as a future collection shot with Whang-Od in the Philippines.