You may remember back in 2012, we held a design competition for budding lingerie designers to have their design make it into our collection. We had such an amazing response that we ended up choosing three winners and making the pieces into a mini-collection - one of those winners was Eva Lai. Since graduating, Eva has been working on a beautiful new luxury lingerie brand, eLai. We love her work so much that we've started to stock some accessories and bodysuits on the guest brand section of our website.
We had a chat with Eva to find out a little bit more about her brand!
What sparked your interest in fashion design?
I have always loved drawing and anything crafty even as a child. Like most girls, I was really into clothing and fashion. The satisfaction of creating something beautiful from scratch is what drew me into design.
Is there anything in particular that lead you to study fashion?
Being a fashion designer was an ambition at a young age, and the skills required seem to be what I am good at, so I worked towards the goal, and fashion school was the natural path to get there.
What is it about lingerie that you found the most interesting?
I love all areas in fashion. But I think lingerie is the most personal and intimate item a woman can buy. It is such a specialist subject, having to think about the fit and how the garment could support and enhance the female body, and whether it'd be comfortable against the skin etc. Details are key in lingerie because the garments are so small. I enjoy the challenge of what I can do with a tiny little bra & knickers. It's amazing how every stitch is so visible and it is all about details and accuracy.
You're a recent graduate and your brand has developed so fast. What's your secret?
I wish it could develop faster! Haha. I haven’t got the funding to invest in advertising and the only way to bring brand awareness is though social media (so thank god for internet!) I just try to stay true to my creative vision, and do things my way, instead of the traditional way of what a lingerie brand “should” be. I want eLai to grow organically, so customers would appreciate the products for its design and quality, rather than because I just spent a lot of money on celebrity endorsement.
Being a one woman team must be a hell of a challenge! Do you think about getting some extra hands on board?
It is so hard to do it all myself, but at the same time it means everything is done to the way I like. I do however have a lovely team of models/MUA/stylists that helps me massively when it comes to imagery… my darling photographer Polly Hanrahan has been brilliant at bringing my work to life in all my lookbooks. I would love to have more young talents to make eLai bigger and better in the near future.
How has your work evolved since you began your own label?
The first few collections were so different from each other, I tried dark boudoir, cute & colourful, to glam sportlux. As I was still trying to find my style as a brand and figuring out who my customers are. But I have learnt so much since I started and now I have a much better idea of what works. I think it is important to constantly evaluate the business and change your direction based on current social and economical factors. It is good to show a different side as long as it stays true to your brand ethos.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it influence your work?
I am obsessed with sleek lines, so I’m really into the sportlux style at the moment, which shows in my Constellation collection. I’m also fascinated by Olivier Rousteing’s use of chains, embellishments, and the craftsmanship to create textures in his Balmain collections, which I find really inspiring!
What's eLai's ultimate aspiration?
To have my own atelier & showroom in London. I would love for customers to be able to just come in and have their pieces made-to-order.
hat's the main source of inspiration for your projects?
Usually something with a narrative- a film or a character. Fabrics/ materials. Certain fetishes. What I want to wear…
Who's eLai's customer?
Someone who values designs and craftsmanship in a made-to order product; who appreciates unusual pieces with a sense on humour; who thinks comfort is key; who wants to be effortlessly seductive; they would wear eLai for themselves because it feels good and empowering (and bonus that it happens to have a hint of naughtiness)
What's the most challenging part about what you do?
The business side that involves lots of numbers.
And what's most rewarding?
When I receive emails from customers telling me how much they love wearing my designs…that’s when all the hard work feels so worth it!
What is the biggest lesson you've learned since starting your own company?
Don’t give up just yet…patience is key!
If you could give some advice for a lingerie designer-to-be, what would that be?
Love what you do, learn from every opportunity, make good relationships (it’s a very small industry) & work really, really, really….. hard!!!