Tell us about your childhood. Was fashion something you always wanted to do?
I grew up in Taiwan and fashion was definitely something I was interested in. My mother was very fashionable and her interest in fashion was likely a big influence on me. Even now, she still gives me some of her pieces and I love the idea of passing down a well-loved garment to the next generation.
When did the idea of creating a sustainable brand come about?
During my childhood in Taiwan, we had water shortages and I distinctly remember all these messages about limiting water use, conservation, etc. So the concept behind preserving natural resources was planted from a very early age.
When I started actually working in the industry, it hit me just how wasteful the industry is. Especially when fast fashion was hitting its peak, you realize disposable clothing became, to be worn once and discarded. By the same token, it was impossible to compete with these companies that are so price competitive. Now things are changing, and I think customers are a lot more aware of the damage done by fast fashion and are less sensitive to price.
How did you get your first job in fashion?
I actually worked at a hedge fund in finance for about two years after graduating but it just wasn’t working for me. I really felt that fashion was the right path. I remember being very apprehensive telling my parents but they were actually quite supportive and I ended up going to Parsons.
Tell us about the early days of LEYT.
I had just had my baby boy and I was at home on maternity leave. My husband started encouraging me to do something on my own. Although I was resistant at first, I started researching how to make clothes more eco-friendly and understanding more sustainable production methods. Plus, small things like getting sample yardage was proving to be a challenge - a lot of mills require sample yardages of 30-50 yards which, for a small brand, is a LOT.
I looked at mill after mill and I finally landed on a handwoven fabric which I just fell in love with. I loved the human aspect of something being made by hand while supporting the community that created it and preserving the tradition.
The fabric is loomed in Bangladesh.
That’s right. Bangladesh doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to fashion and interestingly, the factory owner came up with this idea because he wanted to create lasting change. I had spoken with many suppliers in India and Bangladesh and this one ended up working for me. The fabric is excellent quality and the factory is a fair trade supplier with everything from home goods to apparel. It was the perfect factory.
The cut and sew happens in New York City. This was personal to me and I wanted to contribute to the local economy here while maintaining top quality. It’s tough to do good quality control from thousands of miles away.