Poppy Barley

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In Her Shoes: Alyssa Lau

Rounded toe leather ballet flats fit for narrow to wide feet - Poppy Barley x Alyssa Lau - Snakeskin shoes

Credits: The Contemporary Ballet in Snakeskin + Black, Angle Mini Dolman Dress by Kaarem

Our newest launch, Limited Edition Collection 06, is inspired by powerhouse women working in the business of fashion and design–many of who we meet at Poppy Barley popup shops and events, or connect with over social media. From afar we watch these women travel to fashion weeks and on buyer’s trips, and we watch their fanbase grow. That big Instagram following might appear to be superficial, but don’t underestimate it; these women mean business, they’re audience means power, and they’re making big decisions for their brands every day.

One such woman is 23-year-old Alyssa Lau, founder of eco-fashion e-commerce site, New Classics Studios, and the photographer/model/creative behind the imagery showcasing our newest Snakeskin collection. Alyssa has been riding a wave of self-made success since launching her personal style blog, Ordinary People, and trading in a two-year graduate studies program in biochemistry for a fashion career.

Whether it’s a fashion week trip or an all-expenses-paid press run, Alyssa travels from her home-base in Edmonton to places like Toronto, New York, Paris and Hong Kong, all in the name of fashion. At New Classics Studios, her mission is to promote an ideology that revolves around quality, social responsibility, and environmental awareness, and all the brands carried at New Classics align with this vision.

Below, we have an honest conversation with her about what it’s like to make a drastic career switch, what daily task she’d love to permanently scratch off her list, which celebrity she freaked out about seeing at New York Fashion Week, and where she sees New Classics Studios going next.

Shoes that fit for narrow to wide feet - Poppy Barley x Alyssa Lau - Slip-on Oxford, Laceless Oxford, Snakeskin Print

Credits: The Slip-on Oxford in Snakeskin + Black, Palm Print A-Line Skirt by SVILU, Zebra Dress by Toit Volant

Why did you decide to shift your career direction from bio-chem to e-commerce fashion? About a half a year ago, I realized that I was starting to receive a number of fashion-related opportunities that I knew I would never receive again. So, I decided to put a Masters in Biochemistry aside and pursue a career in e-commerce fashion.

Do you see any similarities between the two? Both require a lot of research, commitment, dedication and motivation. While the work isn’t the same, the work ethic is.

Why is eco-fashion important to you? Eco-fashion has the potential to change both our environment and the lives of garment workers within the supply chain for the better. But in order to inspire this change, we need to create awareness pertaining to the lack of sustainability within the mainstream fashion. It is for this reason that New Classics Studios was born.

What does your typical day look like? I count myself pretty darn lucky because I don’t really have a typical day. But if I had to describe one, it’d probably go a little something like this:  Wake up at 9:30 AM, answer e-mails/do social media things for an hour, eat some breakfast, head out the door to the studio, shoot some content for New Classics’ social media, meet with someone somewhere to discuss collaboration opportunities, drive over to Eric’s (my boyfriend and business partner) to get him to snap some blog content for me, head home and edit photos/answer e-mails/watch Netflix until 2-3 AM.

Pointed toe leather ballet flats fit for narrow to wide feet. - Poppy Barley x Alyssa Lau - Flats - Snakeskin Print

Credits: The Classic Point in Snakeskin, Palm-Print Wide Leg Pant by SVILU

What does a typical buying trip look like? A few days of appointments with brands, showrooms and/or designers, and another few days of heading to shows, meeting up with friends, and eating delicious food!

What does your creative process look like? A lot of my creativity stems from all the inspiration I get from spending so much time on the internet. Sometimes I’ll find a magazine editorial that I really admire, or sometimes I’ll find myself saving photos from Pinterest or Tumblr into an Inspiration folder I have saved on my Desktop. Either way, the internet is where my creative process starts. From there, I start writing down all the ways I could apply it in a unique way to my own brand or blog. Often times this results in an extremely unorganized flow chart of ideas, but this is essentially my creative process.

Leather ankle boots for narrow to wide feet - Poppy Barley x Alyssa Lau - Chelsea Boots - Snakeskin Print

Credits: The Chelsea Boot in Snakeskin, Flounce Hem T-Shirt Dress by SVILU

What’s the hardest part about starting an e-commerce company? For me, one of the hardest parts about starting an e-commerce company is self-doubt. While it helps to have an extremely optimistic partner, family, and friends, there’s no getting rid of the “what ifs” that still reside in the corners of my brain.

What’s the one task that’s crucial to your business that you wish you could get rid of? All the paperwork.

What’s the one task–no matter how small–you’ll never tire of? Photo editing.

Shoes that fit for narrow to wide feet - Poppy Barley x Alyssa Lau - Slip-on Oxford, Laceless Oxford, Snakeskin Print

What was your favourite fashion show this season at NYFW? Mara Hoffman was beautiful!

Who are you most looking forward to seeing at Paris fashion week? Sacai Luck FW15!

Who have you sat beside (or perhaps walked by – that’s okay too!) at a fashion show that gave you an a-ha moment and made you feel like you were meant to be there and/or that you were meant to be working in fashion? This isn’t quite the a-ha moment you’re looking for, but I did walk by Jesse Metcalfe (AKA John Tucker from John Tucker Must Die) at the Lacoste SS15 show and most definitely fangirled.

Leather shoes for narrow to wide feet - Poppy Barley x Alyssa Lau - Chelsea Boots - Snakeskin Print

If you have to pack lightly for a buying trip or press trip, what are five essentials that you take with you? White sneakers, boyfriend jeans, a leather jacket, a backpack, and headphones.

Where’s your favourite place to travel? Tokyo

If you could dress anyone in New Classics attire, dead or alive, who would it be? Emma Watson

If you could take anyone for coffee and ask them any question you wanted, who would it be, and where would you take them? What would you ask? Yohji Yamamoto, Leva Café, “What goes on in your brain?”

What’s something that no one really knows about you? I first met Eric online when I partied up with a friend in Guild Wars 2.

Leather ankle boots for narrow to wide feet - Poppy Barley x Alyssa Lau - Chelsea Boots - Snakeskin Print

Credits: The Chelsea Boot in Snakeskin, TYH.D Boatneck Dress by Kaarem, Wide Leg Cropped Pants by SUZANNE RAE

Name one stand-out experience you’ve had as a blogger. Being photographed by The Sartorialist.

Name one stand-out experience you’ve had as a buyer. There really isn’t specifically one moment, but just receiving positive comments about New Classics Studios from the brands I work with helped to encourage me to keep doing what I love.

What do you envision for New Classics Studios in 5 years? 10 years? In 5 years, I can only hope that New Classics Studios will be helping to lead and expose Canada’s sustainable and ethical fashion industry to the world, all the while still acting as a platform for consumers to discuss and learn about the issues of sustainability and ethics within the fashion industry. Hopefully by this time, New Classics Studios will be a well-regarded destination for both Canadian and International sustainable fashion while still operating proudly out of Edmonton. And in 10 years? Taking over the world. Jokes aside, I just hope that the New Classics Team will consist of more than five people.

Pointed toe leather ballet flats fit for narrow to wide feet. - Poppy Barley x Alyssa Lau - Flats - Snakeskin Print

Credits: The Classic Point in Snakeskin, Wind Chime Top by Kaarem, Palm-Print Wide Leg Pant by SVILU

Caroline Gault

Director of Content & Community, Poppy Barley
Caroline handles social media, online content, and media relations at Poppy Barley. She's also a freelance lifestyle writer, editor, and a die-hard Instagram fan.