My interview with Elizabeth Law, the designer behind the clothing line Wise & Proper, is slightly different from most interviews I do. First, our plans to meet go awry when we end up at different Starbucks locations downtown--something which has never happened to me before. A quick phone call is all it takes for us to synch up, though, and when I catch up with Liz she is already waiting for me, coolly sipping a passion tea lemonade and waiting to begin.
Another reason this interview is unique is that Liz is unlike any other designer I've ever met. She never attended fashion school and admits she hated sewing while growing up. She also confesses that she doesn't know much about what's going on with the fashion industry at large, such as what the big-name designers and labels are doing at the moment. Her so-called lack of knowledge stems from the fact that she never anticipated becoming a fashion designer: "Because I didn't know I was going to go this route, I didn't really follow the typical path. I just wanted to do something creative and something that would make me happy."
The path that did lead her towards fashion design is an interesting one. The child of Chinese immigrants, Liz succumbed to parental pressure to do "something practical" and completed an undergrad degree in business administration. However, she was dissatisfied with the lack of a creative outlet in her life and enrolled in a graphic arts program focusing on 3-D computer animation. During work on her demo reel, Liz developed a nascent form of arthritis from the long hours spent in front of a computer. She took a 3 month hiatus and went to Asia to visit her extended family. While there, an aunt who worked in fashion enlisted Liz's help on buying trips to Italy, and Liz began to seriously consider fashion as that elusive creative outlet.
Striped top from the Spring '09 collection
Today, Liz divides her time between Vancouver and Hong Kong, working closely with manufacturers who transform her sketches into clothing when she's overseas. Wise & Proper derives its name from the characters in Liz's Chinese name and, true to form, produces classic, demure pieces that can be worn in the office or for a sophisticated evening out. "I want to make stuff that's timeless and not just whatever the latest fad is," says Liz. At the same time, this self-described tomboy (she's an accomplished martial artist with a black belt in Tong Moo Do and currently practices Brazilian jiu jitsu) has no problem getting in touch with her inner girly girl. For these reasons, the tops, dresses, and sweaters in each season feature simplistic lines and silhouettes with subtle, feminine detailing. Her practical, wearable designs are earning fans among fashion editors and Vancouverites alike.
Cap sleeve dress from Spring '09
The Fall 2009 collection will feature dresses galore--autumn-appropriate frocks in heavier jersey knit fabrications with long sleeves, as well as plenty of party dresses for the holiday season. Silhouettes will be loose, flowy, and feminine, with a lot of tunic dress pieces that can be worn as tops or mini dresses. The collection will also feature the luxurious cashmere hoodies and sweaters that Wise & Proper is known for.
For now, though, Liz is most excited about the launch of Wise & Proper's new online store which will ship all over North America. She wants to expand her website and find more retailers to carry her line, and has tentative plans to incorporate more eco-friendly fabrics into her designs and move manufacturing to Canada. She's come a long way since she first began pursuing fashion design, but ever the restless creative soul, she believes she still has a long way to go.
Wise & Proper is available at Boudoir, Dream, Plenty, Tutta Mia, and Twigg & Hottie in Vancouver. You can also shop the collections online via the new online store. Follow Wise & Proper on Twitter at @wiseandproper.
This article also appears on Stylefinds.