A Conversation with Alissa Lapid of NACU

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It takes a lot to leave a dream job—something most of us continuously search for throughout our decades-long careers. However, that’s exactly what style-savvy designer Alissa Lapid did to focus on fiercely chasing her goals. After an unglamorous trip to Paris, while working for a Toronto-based luxury womenswear brand and adopting another person’s ambitions for almost five years, she was ready to hit the ground running towards her passions. That’s when NACU became more than just a notion—it became the sole purpose of moving forward.

Growing up, Alissa always had a fascination with expressing herself through clothes and helping people develop their style. It was only natural that she’d gravitate towards launching her very own business one day. After pursuing a degree in fashion design and discovering that she actually enjoyed—or perhaps endured without complaint—the grueling work and sleepless nights that the industry often requires, she moved to Toronto to gain more experience and network with fellow creators.

Today, NACU is based between both Toronto and Alissa’s hometown of Windsor, Ontario. According to the designer, it’s important to her to have her brand based in a place where she initially discovered her personal style and taste. “I wanted to introduce a different type of style [there] that might not necessarily be popular, but I believe is something people look for to express themselves through clothes that aren’t always accessible to them,” she explains.

I caught up with Alissa to chat about her breakout brand, the future of sustainability, and why it’s crucial to give Asian creators the platform they deserve.

Tell me a bit about why you started your own brand. 

Having my own brand has always been a dream of mine, being able to create and share my art with others. NACU had been under development for three years, prior to launching, to really map out exactly the vision and message I wanted to portray, which was making fashion accessible in different ways, and being unisex and made-to-order with a flexible size range.

What’s behind the brand’s name?

NACU is my mom’s maiden name and I wanted to honour her by carrying her name through the brand because she has been one of my biggest inspirations and supporters for me in my career as well as to start creating my own brand.

In what ways do you incorporate your heritage into your brand?

The main way is by the name. I wanted to have a brand where people learned a name that might not be as easy to initially say, but put the effort and energy to do it anyway. I also incorporate aspects of my culture into the designs, with pieces inspired by traditional clothing. I’m also looking to use more traditional fabrics. For example, in my next collection I’d like to use piña fabrics, which are traditional textiles made from pineapples.

Why do you think it’s important to give a voice to Asian creators, yourself included?

I think it’s vital to give a voice to Asian creators so that younger creatives can see it’s possible for them too. I find as a society we are so used to having Asian creators adopting the dreams of others and being in the background, and it’s time we start recognizing Asians, especially SEA, as more than labour.

Who is the ideal NACU customer?

Everyone! People who want to dip their toe into fashion but feel intimidated, who don’t know where to start. I want NACU to be a place for them to find an entire look that is fashionable and different, but still be a way to ease into their personal style. NACU’s designs are made to be unisex, inclusive, and approachable. Since it is all made to order, all the sizes can range from very petite to plus size. I wanted the ability to have an oversized look but still be chic, elevated, and accessible to anyone.

What pressures do you feel like you’re under as a small brand?

As a small brand and designer, I find the types of pressures I feel vary. From a business standpoint, the pressures I face are ensuring that I am able to provide a great product and experience to my customers. From the point of view as a designer, I feel pressure with how my creations will be received by the audience. Will they understand and be able to buy into my vision? Is my message coming across? It’s a bit of a vulnerable position.

Which is your favourite piece from your collection and why?

My favourite piece from my recent collection would be the suit as a whole because it’s such a comfortable piece, almost like a jogger’s feel. With only subtle differences to a regular suit, it still offers an elevated look which makes it a great piece to wear to work and can easily transition to a casual night out if needed.

How do you stay sustainable in your designs? 

I do this in many different ways, the made-to-order process is key in reducing inventory. This is done to ensure that any NACU doesn’t get discarded and end up in landfills, unlike most fast fashion brands. Every NACU piece is created with intention for the customers. I also use deadstock fabrics as much as possible, to ensure any fabrics don’t create more waste during their production. Items that have an inventory are done in small batches with limited releases. I believe my processes will help elevate the brand with more exclusive pieces; the nature of deadstock is limited quantities available, so every customer gets a luxury experience of a one-of-a-kind piece.

What’s next for NACU?

We have many upcoming plans! We’re looking into releasing a new collection, more product drops from past collections, and collaborating with other creatives. Our plan for the future is to slowly but surely establish NACU in Canada, and eventually venture internally.

I see NACU becoming more of a lifestyle brand, reaching a broader audience, and helping to introduce a new way to access fashion.

Straying away from the world of fast fashion and putting more intention into one’s style versus just being about logos and “flexing”.

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.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

We hope you’ll join us.

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