Interview with Alyssa Lau, Fashion Blogger Turned Ethical Entrepreneur

Edmonton-based blogger Alyssa Lau of Ordinary People looks to raise awareness around fast fashion with her growing ecommerce endeavour New Classics. Featuring only sustainable and ethical fashion brands that celebrate a timeless, minimalist aesthetic, New Classics becomes about those investment pieces that last season after season.

If you follow Alyssa Lau, you will realize she is not your average fashion blogger. “When it comes to being a fashion blogger I don’t really feel that need to always be wearing something new,” she explains. And if you follow her, you will notice her statement pieces as they repeatedly pop-up in her photos. “When I shop – very rarely – it is about investing in pieces that I know I will want to wear for 5-10 years. So for me my small impact is my consumer choices, I am trying to use my money to support small businesses and invest in my clothing.”

Lately, she appears to mainly be wearing the ethical brands she sells on New Classics. There is some overlap between Ordinary People and New Classics, but her priority is her ecommerce site. “My blog has always been a very personal and creative outlet for me and I don’t have plans to become a full time blogger,” she says. “I think its a dead industry but I just want to use it as an excuse to be creative.” She admits Instagram has hurt the blogging industry, however, she has found it to be great asset when sourcing sustainable fashion brands – #sustainablefashion – for New Classics (surely, her following of 60.3k helps drive traffic to the site and provide exposure to these ethical brands too).

Alyssa aims to make New Classics a platform for people to educate themselves further on ethical and sustainable fashion. After all, she never set out to be a blogger or work in fashion, she studied chemistry at university and her blog was merely a side project. “Fashion blogging isn’t really a career so it was a little tough to convince my family this is what I want to do and this was my passion. It was something I had to learn to deal with, and communicate with my parents,” says Alyssa, when asked about the challenges she’s faced. However, her dedication has earned recognition across Canada.

You first started posting street style pictures on Lookbook.nu. What made you decide to start your blog Ordinary People in 2011? 

Growing up I was such a dork, I would sit in my room and code websites, and I would take photos when I was 12. So [my cousin and I] were just bored one summer and started the blog. I didn’t tell anyone for 6 months because I was so embarrassed of it. We didn’t expect anything of it and it was really cool to see people actually responding or just reading whatever we wrote.

You named your blog Ordinary People because you believed “someone from any corner of the world could become a fashion blogger.” With this being said, has living in Edmonton been a difficult city to live as fashion blogger?  

Honestly, a lot of people think that. The great thing about Edmonton is it’s growing so fast. It’s a really great place to start something because everyone is so receptive and supportive, and chances are if you are doing something you will probably be one of the people who pioneer because Edmonton is just so small.

How has Instagram affected blogging? 

I wouldn’t say it’s affected it in a great way. Everyone has ADHD now. Why would I read someone’s blog when I could go to their Instagram? Blogging has died down. Honestly, I can’t deal with bloggers on Instagram because everything is sponsored and everything is an ad, which I completely understand because people need to make money. I think original content or even just interesting content has really just gone down the drain. Creativity really has been lost with the monetization of Instagram. So for me it has really killed blogging.

Do you think that unless you are already a successful blogger or have a large Instagram following, it is too oversaturated now to develop a following? 

It’s definitely more difficult because there is so much more competition, however I still truly believe that if you love what you are doing and you are still trying to make content different than everyone else then people will pick up on that.

What are some of your favourite blogs that you continue to look at?

I love what Zoe Suen is doing. She’s from Hong Kong and she’s now living in London – she is a lovely girl – she keeps producing content that is really genuine to who she is. Margaret Zhang has always had amazing content.

You launched your ecommerce site New Classics in October 2014 with your boyfriend Eric Yun. How has it grown in the last 2.5 years?

It’s actually grown a lot. In our first year we sent out like 100 orders and now were over 700. A lot of people have been talking to us and asking us about sustainable fashion. We’ve seen it grow business wise, but also as a platform for awareness.

Has it been easier or harder than you thought to source sustainable clothing for New Classics? 

It’s actually been pretty easy. With social media you can search a hashtag with ‘sustainable fashion’. Now there is so many more designers that are joining in on this slow fashion movement!

What are some of your favourite ethical and sustainable brands, and how do you feel like they are making a difference to the fashion cycle? 

Kowtow clothing is one of the bigger ones, everything they do is 100% fair-trade certified, organic cotton. They are super transparent about their policies and their practices on their website. They will talk about their organic cotton, about their certified factories and they will talk about the benefits their workers get.

As for smaller brands, Study NY use natural organic fabrics but also have zero waste designs. A lot of her clothing can be worn more than one way, she will like use her scraps to make a sweater for the next season for example.

Suzanne Rae is a Brooklyn based designer, she just came out with a shoe line which is fabulous. She gives back to the community a lot. She works with women in need or women’s programs, so each season she tries to give some of her proceeds or holds workshops with the women.

A Bronze Age in Vancouver makes moroccan babouches. They work with moroccan artisans to make them and sometimes they use salvaged denim.

How do you feel you are making a difference now with your company? 

We just want to raise awareness and get people talking! One thing that we haven’t done in awhile but we should get back into is Our Local Portrait, where we try to get Edmontonians into our studio try on our clothes – get them to understand why sustainable fashion is important. On  an individual basis I try to live green.

You probably get sent a lot of clothes though! Do you donate clothes? 

Now if I don’t want to actually wear it, I won’t accept it. Donating clothing only goes so far, a lot of the clothes actually flood Third World countries and their local markets, and then their local businesses go out of business. So donating your clothing isn’t actually that great. A really small percentage of our donated clothes goes to Salvation Army or Value Village, most of it actually goes to Third World countries.

That’s shocking! What are some other interesting facts in regards to the fashion cycle and its relationship with sustainability?

70% of the energy consumption in the apparel industry happens after you buy it, which means how you put it in the laundry. For example, machine washing and machine drying is extremely high on the energy level. It’s a lot better for your clothing and the environment when you hand wash and you air dry. It’s all something we can do, and it’s going to make your clothes last longer!

If you want facts, the average garment worker in Third World countries make less than 82 cents an hour! That just goes to show you how unethical fast fashion is. If you watch the fast fashion True Cost documentary on Netflix, it is a good introduction to fast fashion. They said the fashion industry is like second to oil, in terms of pollution and environmental impact.

What do you see for the future of New Classics? 

For New Classics we’ve been talking about doing an in house line, which would not be for awhile considering how much research and work that requires. We want to continue to grow at a slow pace but want to have more team members and collaborate with more people in Edmonton.

Alyssa Lau nominates Danielle Roche (coming soon) >> 

Alyssa Lau and Dani Roche

newclassics.ca | @shopnewclassics
ordinarypeople.ca | @imalyssalau

Images courtesy of Alyssa Lau

 

 

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