Jewelry designer Bliss Lau’s process starts with a question: “How will I challenge one’s physical experience with the object?” Her intricate body chains, which can be worn against the skin or outside of clothes, were so ahead of their time that when she debuted them in 2007 in New York, “Multiple people laughed at me,” she told Interview.com.
But, since her mantra is to “just acknowledge what you want to do, versus what other people like,” she stayed the course. Eventually, those with taste appreciated her work, and Lau’s labels—Bliss Lau and Bliss Lau Fine, Bespoke, and Signature—are now available either custom-made or at high-end boutiques around the world. Her designs have been featured on a topless Katy Perry for Esquire, as well as in Vogue, Variety, Vanity Fair, (and countless other magazines), and Beyoncé wore her designs for the “Drunk In Love” music video.
“I built my aesthetic, and all of my sensibilities for proportion, structure and balance, while studying art in Hawaii,” she said in an email interview. “I took night and weekend classes at the Honolulu Museum of Art School throughout my high school career. In retrospect, I think the freedom of movement in my design and reactionary materials, i.e. products that are balanced through gravity and movement, are all based from growing up in the islands.”
Having studied women’s apparel at Parsons the New School For Design, and after five years of designing handbags and selling them under her eponymous label, Lau realized that remnant chains from her bags created something new altogether. By draping the chains around the body, she realized that “a marriage between line and metal ended up becoming more interesting to me, and I transitioned my company. Everything was very slow and organic, based on intuition and happiness in my daily process.”
Lau is now an associate professor at Parsons, and one of several mentors in the Hawaii Fashion Incubator’s Fashion Exchange program (HFX).
“I love Hawaii, and the designers are very talented here,” she said. “After teaching an entrepreneurial branding and design course for nearly ten years at Parsons, I want to bring that opportunity to my peers here in the islands.”
To join the Hawaii Fashion Exchange, and experience workshops with Lau and other HFX mentors, visit hawaiifashionexchange.com.