A Conversation With: Alyssa Lau
A while ago I came up with an idea to incorporate more content into this site through conversations with people I know that inspire me. I guess I’ve been frustrated for a while with trying to figure out what I can bring to this space, and got excited when I realised that it doesn’t necessarily have to be me who ‘creates’ the content; rather, I can be the one who facilitates it. Of course, it helps that I happen to know a lot of really talented, kind and motivated people and want to do my part to sprinkle their charm over as many crevices of the internet as I can. So here it is, my first conversation (hopefully, of many) with the lovely Alyssa of Ordinary People and New Classics Studio. I’ve always been amazed by her work, from her quirky style and really good video content to her focus on sustainability and ethical retail, and it doesn’t hurt that Alyssa and her boyfriend Eric (co-founder of NCS) are two genuinely lovely people. I hope you enjoy this conversation and please let me know what you think and would like to see more of, I’d really appreciate it.
Z: So…how would you describe what you do?
A: It’s hard, because a lot of people ask me what I do for a living…the short story is that I own my own small business and do a lot of random projects. The long story would be that….I would call myself a creator; New Classics is my number 1 priority and we still do some work on [the blog], but that’s still a creative outlet for me- more like an online journal. It’s hard to categorise or simplify it to one term.
Z: I know what you mean- its so funny hearing the terms people call bloggers nowadays. In Hong Kong people use the term KOL (Key Opinion Leader) which kind of makes you sound like a cult leader and there are so many different labels now.
A: At the end of the day what we’re doing is still blogging, but I feel like blogging has transformed so much, and a lot of people who started out as bloggers are so much more than bloggers- you can call it whatever you want but its never going to encompass everything.
Z: What do you hate the most about social media?
A: Well, I talk about this quite often (laughs), I think its become a lot less authentic and genuine because its all being sponsored. I don’t think its really anybody’s problem because people are trying to make a living and I understand that, but at the same time the whole thing with social media and what made it amazing was the ability to make creative, raw and organic content which people could relate to, and I can’t really relate to a sponsored message. Everyone’s reaching out to bloggers and it’s become another way for people to shove ads at people, and the fact that a lot of people have the same content over and over again. I don’t really believe in the idea of ‘original content’ but some people don’t try to create anything original.
Z: I know what you mean- I feel like we could talk about that for ages but just so we don’t go off on a tangent for too long…where do you feel most at home?
A: Actually, my room (laughs), as long as there’s my dog and Eric with me I feel at home. It depends on what you think of as home- some artists find ‘home’ where they’re most creative but for me its where I can lie down and relax and stop thinking about work. If you’re self-employed you’re in charge of your entire lifestyle and not thinking about it can be really hard.
Z: I get that. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose to live?
A: It changes pretty often…I really do love Edmonton because its growing at such a fast pace, but if I could live anywhere, I really like Tokyo.
Z: I’ve heard its a really great place to live in terms of education and cultural values. Moving on to more work-related topics, how long ago did New Classics start and is this how you imagine it’d end up?
A: I was on LinkedIn for the first time in a year (laughs) and it said that New Classics is two years old in two months. We started in October 2014, I guess it started with me not really being happy with where I was going. I’ve always loved the sciences and thats why I chose my chemistry major and thought I wanted to go to med school. I’d been blogging for two years by the time I graduated, and at that time blogging wasn’t quite as over-saturated as it is now, and a lot of different opportunities and cool things started happening. I think in May 2014 I had already been accepted into a chemistry grad program and had started on my project and wasn’t really liking it so I decided to put it aside. I just realised one day that I didn’t want to do this anymore, so I was messaging Eric on Facebook and he suggested opening an online store, but so many bloggers were doing the same thing so I felt it was too expected, and that’s where sustainable fashion came in. The previous Christmas I had received a book about sustainable fashion called ‘Naked Fashion’, and it really opened my eyes, and I saw that Canada didn’t have a market for sustainable fashion, and thats when we started thinking of ideas for the store. When we first opened, we didn’t know what was going to happen so we just hoped for the best.
Z: I’m really curious as to how you balance fashion consciousness with regards to projects you do as a blogger?
A: From the get-go I knew I wanted to keep them very separate- I didn’t want to make New Classics about me, as I wanted it to be inclusive and for people to join in with sustainability. So I still try to talk about New Classics and sustainability as much as possible without getting on the nerves of people, as I don’t want to come across as preachy but a lot of people are still unaware of issues to do with fast fashion.
Z: I know what you mean- I’m waiting on the day my friends get sick of me talking about it, but I’ve been telling everyone to watch ‘The True Cost’ and I made my parents watch it as well. I think its something that no one really talks about because there’s so much going on politically and otherwise, its sort of put on the back-burner.
A: It’s true, right? Well, when you’re buying a piece of clothing its easier not to think about it. It all comes down to what you believe in- on Ordinary People its hard you still want to be working on projects, but I would never accept a project that would go against my ideals.
Z: That makes sense. What are some of your favourite websites and brands for ethical and sustainable fashion?
A: Rafa makes the best strappy sandals; another really good website that curates some awesome brands would be wellmadeclothes.com; Study New York is amazing; Pansy does underwear and is really good; there’s Zady. At the end of the day it all comes down to transparency, and as we all know fast fashion brands like H&M aren’t transparent.
Z: And what are your favourite pieces in your wardrobe?
A: My favourite pieces are the ones with the most versatility. My Acne Jensen boots are amazing, the quality is amazing and the style is timeless.
Z: I got the pistol boots recently and I’ve been wanting them for years, they’re the best and so comfortable.
A: The Converse CDG Play sneakers also go with everything.
Z: Now for more miscellaneous questions; what was the last thing that inspired you?
A: Usually its music- If i find a cool song I’ll think of videos I can make to the song. Don’t get me wrong, I listen to a lot of Kpop and really bad Top 40s (laughs), but I also like to listen to ambient indie music. Right now I’m loving Never be your man by Tom Lark.
Z: Next- what do you have set as your home page on your internet browser?
A: Google, its always been Google- its my best friend.
Z: Favourite artists, visual or musical or otherwise?
A: One of my favourite fashion designers is Chitose Abe; everything from Sacai is so cool and different, she’s a genius.
Z: I saw their show in Paris and seeing her pieces move is amazing. I’ve actually run through all my questions…thank you so much for talking to me. You’re the guinea pig so you’re gonna be the first one (laughs).
A: Thank you for thinking of me!
Check out Alyssa’s blog here, and her Instagram here. Shop New Classics Studios here.