23 year old Alyssa Lau is a born-and-raised Edmontonian who is making waves in the global fashion industry with New Classics — an online store that promotes style with a conscience. After graduating from the University of Alberta’s Bachelor of Sciences program, Alyssa decided to hold off on pursuing a biochemistry graduate degree, and make fashion her full-time gig. Her blog, Ordinary People, has a HUGE following -in the area of 52.5k followers (just on Instagram)- and serves as the perfect resource for fashion-savvy followers around the world. We were fortunate to be able to catch Alyssa between her roles as New Classics founder and style blogger, to chat about her life, inspiration, and get her take on the transition from fast-fashion to socially responsible style.
Hello Alyssa, Thank you for taking the time to answer some of our questions —Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a 23-year-old self-employed Chinese-Canadian creative director, style blogger, and photographer who was born and raised in Edmonton.
Two years ago, I graduated from the University of Alberta with a BSc majoring in Chemistry, minoring in Anthropology. After being accepted into a Biochemistry graduate program, I decided to put my pursuit of education on hold to open up my own e-commerce store.
How did you come up with the concept for Ordinary People and New Classics? What was your inspiration?
My cousin Kurtis and I first started our fashion blog Ordinary People out of boredom while we were in university. We really didn’t know what we were doing, except that we were interested in fashion and could somewhat use a DSLR.
As for our inspiration, we were incredibly influenced by Scott Schuman’s blog, The Sartorialist
With regards to New Classics Studios, the concept was derived from a distaste for the mainstream fashion industry’s environmentally-harmful practices and lack of ethical conduct.
How did you get involved with fashion? What were your influences growing up, and who currently inspires you?
My involvement in fashion all really started with my blog. Growing up, a lot of my fashion influences came from Japanese culture —that’s what you get when you’re an anime-obsessed teenager. Now, I gather most of my inspiration from street style and editorial photos found on Tumblr and Pinterest.
the concept was derived from a distaste for the mainstream fashion industry’s environmentally-harmful practices and lack of ethical conduct.
What hurdles did you encounter in growing New Classics and Ordinary People from a concept to a successful business? How did you overcome the hurdles?
I’d consider myself at foremost a creative individual, so I tend to forget (or ignore) the “business-side” of things. Thank goodness I have people to help me with this, though!
What inspires your day-to-day style? What is your go-to favourite piece of clothing or accessory?
Honestly, it all really depends on my mood or what has been inspiring me lately. As of lately, my favourite piece of go-to clothing has been an oversized shirtdress from New Classics.
You have over 52,000 followers on Instagram. What do you feel is the one thing that is unique to Ordinary People that interests your followers?
Honestly, I have no idea. I still find it baffling that people even follow me on social media!
The fashion landscape is constantly evolving both off and online —where do you see Ordinary People going in the next 2 – 5 years?
Although I’ve already started this transition, I hope to grow Ordinary People into a creative platform (versus a “plain jane” style blog) that will start to encompass different aspects of my life; not just fashion. And while this sounds awfully vague, my blog will hopefully always be evolving as I do myself.
What would be your best piece of advice for anyone who is looking to get started with growing and monetizing, or scaling, their blog/online business?
Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
You have achieved a lot at such a young age; how did you overcome the fear of starting your own business?
I’ve always been rather determined, so, once I had it in my head that I wanted to start an online business, I just had to go for it! That… and having a supportive family and group of friends really helps.
Your online store New Classics Studio has a strong focus on sustainability and fair trade fashion. Can you tell us more about why this has become your focus?
After becoming exasperated with fast-fashion and the retailers who continue to provide low quality clothing at a high social cost, I found myself looking for clothing that was: a) timeless in design, b) high in quality, and c) ethically, and mindfully crafted.
So, that’s when I decided to explore the realm of sustainable fashion and —to my excitement—ended up finding some pretty incredible and innovative designers and labels who are paving the way for the sustainable fashion industry. A few months after this discovery, New Classics came together.
a) timeless in design, b) high in quality, and c) ethically, and mindfully crafted.
Where do you feel global fashion is moving? How do you feel Edmonton’s industry leaders are playing a role on a global scale?
Despite the popularity of fast fashion retailers, there has been some resistance to the fast fashion movement. With that being said, an increasing number of designers and brands are starting to design and create clothing that is in line with the slow-fashion movement, and promote this ideology across their platforms.
Where do you find inspiration in your everyday life? What does your ideal first 60 minutes of your day look like?
Inspiration: I’ll lay in bed for an hour after I wake up and just scroll through Instagram, Tumblr or Pinterest for ideas —and a boyfriend/business partner who pushes me to work my hardest.
Where is your favourite place to shop local? Where is your favourite place to shop internationally?
For local: Coup Boutique and Gravity Pope. For international: Shopbop and Farfetch’d.
How do you find balance in your life? Do you have any hobbies or activities you like to do outside of your work? How do you wind down and blow off steam?
I spend a lot of time with my friends and family, and recently picked up running!
Are there resources, or an app, that help you in your daily life, or help you stay organized? What would you recommend to our readers?
My moleskine —not sure I could live without it.
Is there a book that you would recommend that inspired, influenced, or helped motivate you?
“Naked Fashion: The New Sustainable Fashion Revolution” by Safia Minney was a huge inspiration for New Classics. It’s most definitely an eye-opening read into how the fashion industry affects the world, and what we can do to improve it.
try to find a unique angle in which you can approach fashion
What words of wisdom or advice would you give to anyone looking to get started with blogging and/or in fashion?
Because the “blogosphere” is so saturated, try to find a unique angle in which you can approach fashion, and —as always— be yourself.
If you could bring one thing from anywhere in the world to Edmonton, what would it be?
Honestly? These rice cracker snacks from Tokyo that I miss with every fiber of my being. That, or New York Fashion Week.
What is your favourite restaurant or coffee shop in town?
If you had to pick a favourite place in Edmonton to take a breather, let loose, or to soak up the city, where would it be? And why?
The Edmonton river valley—it’s probably the best thing about living in Edmonton!
What are you currently excited about? Are there any new projects in the works? What’s next for Alyssa?
This upcoming season, New Classics will be launching a few collaborations between local Edmonton-based designers. As a proud Edmontonian, this couldn’t make me more excited!