We acted as though the concessions were victories, and we stepped out of the way. We abandoned our Black and Brown allies.

Interview with Alyssa Lau

Introduce yourself!

Hello! My name is Alyssa Lau, and I’m a photographer and small business owner with a rarely touched BSc based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. 

You are the owner of the slow fashion e-retailer New Classics Studios—what inspired you to create New Classics? 

I founded New Classics in 2014 when I was at a crossroads in my life. I had recently graduated from university (majored in Chemistry, minored in Anthropology) and was working part-time as a research assistant in a Biochemistry lab and part-time as a retail associate at a local womenswear boutique. After a year or so of working these two seemingly polar jobs, I was offered the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree in Biochemistry when I had an “ah-ha” moment and realized that research wasn’t the right choice for me. So instead, my now-husband, Eric, suggested that I open an online store. Since I had been learning more about the slow fashion movement and subsequently noticed how sustainability in the fashion industry was a rarely discussed topic, I did what most Asian parents don’t want their kids to do and started my first small business in 2014, which was New Classics. 

How did you come up with the name New Classics?

After days and days of brainstorming, New Classics kind of just came together. As per slow fashion principles, one of New Classics’ purposes was to offer high quality and timeless clothing that could be worn for years to come, but also offer pieces that were special and unique (both in their stories and designs). So when we put two and two together, New Classics just clicked.

What made your decision to make New Classics a sustainably-driven store that combines social responsibility and environmental awareness by selecting slow fashion brands?

My cousin gifted me a book called Naked Fashion: The New Sustainable Fashion Revolution, which truly revolutionized my outlook on the fashion industry. Through this book, I was introduced to the concept of slow fashion and learned about the human rights and environmental violations that happen pervasively throughout the fashion industry, especially the fast fashion industry. Finishing this book prompted me to do my own thorough research and lead me to the realization that not many people even knew what fast fashion was, let alone slow fashion. So in part, I launched New Classics to support and benefit the designers who are paving the way for the slow fashion movement, as well as to provide a platform for education for those who may not yet understand the importance of asking questions like “Who Made My Clothes” every time you go shopping.

You were a science major in university, and you graduated with a Chemistry degree. Why did you choose to work outside the science field?

I entered university with the idea that I wanted to be a doctor, as did 95 percent of my fellow science students at the time. But as I worked through my degree and simultaneously ran an amateur fashion blog on the side, I realized that the sciences had little to offer me and that my interests were heavily swaying towards fashion. After I graduated, I decided to not go straight into pursuing my masters in Biochemistry and instead take a gap year where I worked at two very different jobs. This dichotomy allowed me to learn a lot about myself, where I wanted to take my life and eventually, gifted me the experience to launch New Classics when I decided that research wasn’t for me. 

Do you have any advice for Asian women in college/university that are at a crossroads between their creative and STEM sides?

The best advice I could offer is to try anything and everything you possibly can. If you are interested in fashion like I was, try working at a local small boutique that will give you a variety of useful experiences. If you’re not sure where to start, ask questions! It’s hard to understand the plethora of opportunities that await you if you don’t have a foot in the door.

You are also a cofounder and director of Omma’s Kimchi, an artisanal handmade kimchi business made a few months ago. How has running this company alongside New Classics been?

It’s been very interesting trying to find balance between running Omma’s Kimchi and New Classics (I haven’t yet found it, but I’m almost there). But if there’s one thing I’m grateful for, it’s how Omma’s Kimchi has reminded me how humbling and exhausting starting a new business is. 

What would you say are your biggest accomplishments—personal and professional?

Personally, true harmony in my relationships (therapy has been a great help with that). Professionally, New Classics’ six-year mark. I’ve been so lucky to be able to do a lot of fun and exciting things throughout these past few years, but witnessing New Classics turn 6 was the most gratifying and humbling experience yet. 

What do you think are the biggest issues that Asian women face right now?

Sexism, racism, fetishization, mental health, toxic families, the model minority myth – where to start? Personally, I think one of the biggest issues that Asians in general (and Asian women especially) face is lack of access to mental health support, which could be due to a myriad of reasons like the cost barrier, associated cultural shame, physical inaccessibility, or lack of representation within the field. I’ve always acknowledged the importance of therapy but going to therapy starting this year really changed its significance for me (I’m now that person who tells everyone around me to try it out). Therapy has greatly affected and changed some of the ways in which I choose to live my life for the greater and helped me explore the holes in my own understanding of myself. 

What is next for you? Any new exciting projects?

We do have one exciting project we’re working on personally, and I wish I could share more, but we’re keeping it hush hush for a few more months!  

Where can people find you?

On Instagram: @imalyssalau, on my rarely-used blog: imalyssalau.ca, on New Classics: newclassics.ca or Omma’s Kimchi: ommaskimchi.ca! 



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Alyssa Lau is a photographer, creator, small business owner armed with a rarely used BSc from the University of Alberta based in Edmonton, Alberta. Since launching her personal style blog at the age of 19 with her cousin back in 2011, Alyssa has had the chance to work with fashion companies like Chanel, Gucci, Calvin Klein, and Holt Renfrew, and has also been featured in several noteworthy print and online publications such as Elle Canada, Fashion Magazine, Refinery 29, Who What Wear, and FLARE Magazine to name a few. In 2013, after graduating from the University of Alberta and being accepted into a Biochemistry postgraduate program, Alyssa decided to instead pursue a fashion career. Just a year later in 2014, Alyssa and her now-husband, Eric, launched New Classics Studios—a sustainably driven eCommerce site dedicated to bettering the world through fashion by ameliorating the standards of the design industry and educating and encouraging others to join the Slow Fashion movement. Over the past two six years, New Classics has quickly gained traction amongst the local and international community. We are proud to stand behind the creators and designers who are initiating the way for sustainable fashion in innovative and unique ways. Find Alyssa on Instagram at @imalyssalau, on her rarely used blog imalyssalau.ca, on New Classics newclassics.ca, or Omma’s Kimchi ommaskimchi.ca.

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

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