When I organized my self-employed maternity leave, I asked some friends to be part of an interview series sharing their unique professional experiences (see the list at the bottom of this post). From the beginning, I’ve been getting overwhelmingly positive responses, so I decided to keep the series at least a little longer. The first person to come to mind? Lisa Hsieh of Mien Studios.
While I was pregnant, one of my friends suggested I go to a local artisan market and find Mien Studios – a clothing line designed for women and children. The best part? Most of the women’s designs are great from pregnant and nursing women. Well. That’s not actually the whole story! All her designs are sustainably and ethically made right here in Los Angeles.
We met and she’s absolutely a delight. I started following Mien Studios on Instagram and in addition to all the great styles for women, I’ve COMPLETELY fallen in love with the children’s designs. I can’t wait til our little guy is big enough get him in some of them – and with the way he’s growing, that’s maybe much sooner than expected!!
1. Tell us about Mien Studios and your inspiration for starting the clothing brand!
When Mien Studios first launched, it was a menswear and womenswear line. I designed what I was familiar with – mainstream contemporary fashion. But then I became a mother, and my life changed.
Suddenly, fashion couldn’t just be about what looked good; it had to fit my postpartum body, keep up with my new life as a mom, be comfortable, be low maintenance and more importantly, be sustainably made. So I pivoted and decided to design for women going through similar life experiences as I was.
Every style in my line is meant to look beautiful on different bodies, be easy to care for, be well made, and be incredibly comfortable. As a bonus to mothers, they can find styles are maternity, nursing, and postpartum friendly as well.
2. What was your background before starting Mien Studios?
I’ve been drawing and painting since I was a child so naturally I chose to study art in college and graduated with honors with a fine art degree. Though art has, and always will be, a big part of my life, I started a career in the fashion industry as an apparel designer, which was also what I always wanted to be growing up.
I started at the bottom, interning at fashion showrooms first then working my way up designing for various contemporary clothing brands in Los Angeles. I don’t have a fashion design degree, most of what I know about apparel design is through experience from working in the industry for many years.
3. How do you find inspiration for the designs and making everything here in LA?
I create based on my intuition of what I’m drawn to at the moment when it comes to the clothing silhouettes and colors. I want my entire line to be not only beautiful but also sensible and practical for the busy lives modern women lead today.
I also want the clothing to last and be high quality. And of course, I want the clothing to be made of materials that are responsibly sourced, cut and sewn, then dyed in safe and eco-friendly colors. So I kept my entire production line in L.A. to ensure I can be there to oversee every step of the way. L.A. is my home; I know the garment industry here; I used to work for other brands who are based here; and this is where I want to build my business.
4. What were the unexpected struggles (personal and professional) during the process of starting the brand?
Time – there is so little of it to go around now that my business has grown and my son is getting older. I’m a mother to a toddler and a growing business, both require a lot of my attention and time. It’s common now for me to not have a day off for weeks on end. My days start to blur with one another and working this way does take a toll on my body and my emotional health if I don’t pay attention.
I’ve learned that when it comes to my business, the work never stops. It’s a problem because I truly love what I do so I can keep going day and night if I need to. However, I’ve learned the hard way how detrimental it can be if I let work consume me and I don’t work out, don’t eat well, or don’t get enough sleep.
If I allow it, I could be working every day of the week and that’s just not sustainable. I had to set hard rules for myself such as not stepping into my office or picking up work phone calls on the weekends. I make a point to spend time with my family instead of filling my free days with popups. I make dates to see my friends and to do a couple’s getaway with my husband if I can.
Now I’m better at putting my well-being first and turning down business opportunities so in return, I can have time for my personal life. This process of finding a good work-life balance is a constant work in progress, but it’s necessary for the longevity of my business health and my own happiness.
5. What was the first big moment where you felt as though things were heading in the right direction?
The moment I realized my business was heading in the right direction was when I was on my third restock within 8 months. My business grew gradually and being in the middle of all that craziness with designing, running production, shipping orders, and everything else by myself sometimes meant I got caught up in all the work and don’t notice the small successes.
But I do remember that day when I was counting inventory and realizing I needed to restock yet again, that’s when I knew I was doing something right and that I was on the right track.
6. If you could change one thing you did early on in building your business, what would it be?
Hindsight is 20/20 and there are some things that I invested money and time in back then thinking it would benefit my business, but the results turned out to be underwhelming or even worse, not worthwhile at all. I certainly made mistakes, some expensive, but I don’t think I would go back to change them even if I could.
These mistakes gave me insight into how to make better decisions going forward. My business wouldn’t be what it is today if I didn’t make the missteps I had along the way.