This post is also available in: French
If, like Hong Konger Michelle Lai, you travel a lot, you might be on the lookout for the perfect travel bag. Nicely Made in China (NMiC) caught up with Michelle in Paris on her way to the contemporary fashion fair Rendez-Vous. Born in Toronto, she is the founder and creative director of Mischa. She talked about her passion for Japanese textiles and how her life changed when she began to create handbags.
Michelle, can you tell us how the Mischa adventure began?
I’ve always been interested in fabrics and textiles, and as a little girl I was a keen on sewing. I studied Japanese at school and as soon as I could I began to visit Japan regularly. I had this obsession with Japanese vintage fabric, so I started to collect vintage kimonos and obis. In 2004 – at the time I was teaching English in international schools in Hong Kong – I was looking for a clutch bag but back then, unless you wanted a bridal bag or something very expensive, there was nothing available. That’s when I started to make my own bags.
In September 2004 I decided to have 40 handbags made of vintage obis ready for the Conrad Christmas Fair. I reckoned that if I did not sell any of the bags, I’d have Christmas presents for the rest of my life, but all 40 handbags were sold! Following that first venture into the retail business, the question arose of what I really wanted to do with my life and I chose the creative route.
Who designs Mischa handbags?
I do! So far the company consists only of my business partner and I. Having said that, we are now beginning to work with freelance designers. I also oversee the production process – Mischa bags are made in Guangdong province. The design of my Travel Series ‘Overnighter’ bag is based on Japanese interlocking hexagons representing a sea tortoise shell. It suggests good fortune and longevity.
How many collections do you have?
We have two lines of products: the Vintage Couture and the Travel Series – with 8 bags. We also do bespoke bags. Each Vintage Couture bag – made of vintage obis – comes with a certificate that states how many bags were made out of the same obi – usually no more than 4. For the first collection I used about 30 obis that I had collected over the years. I want Mischa to be a brand with long-lasting designs rather than coming up with avant-garde ideas that change every 6 months.
Where can Nicely Made in China readers buy your bags?
They’re sold at major department stores and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong and Beijing now stock our Travel Series. Our bags can also be found in Italy in Torino, in the USA and soon in Japan. Readers can check our store locator on our website.