Mary Lai, Founder MaryLai New York
Established in 2012 MaryLai NY is an unmistakable chic handbag collection of luxury leather handbags. Each bag is made in New York by local artisans with an old-world attention to detail.
Can you give a brief introduction about your company?
MARYLAI New York launched the end of 2012 and the brand just turned one in December. We are a luxury handbag collection where ultra modern edge meets high quality. After designing handbags for 10 years in the NY fashion industry I decided to start my own collection where the focus was on handcrafting and creating fresh product with great design.
What inspired you to launch MaryLai and what did it take to get your brand where it is today?
I wanted to design from my own point of view and think creatively. I had gained experience under my belt and felt the time was right. It has taken a lot of hard work to get the brand where it is today and I couldn’t of done it without the right people next to me. It is important for me to keep following dreams and manifesting them to reality.
What type of advice/inspiration can you give others designer looking to start their own company or just starting out?
I would usually say things like ‘Never Give Up’ and ‘Follow Your Dreams’ but I think there is a lot more to it. From my personal experience it is not easy but it is so rewarding to follow your own path. Everyone’s journey is different so it is hard to give general advice/inspiration – but for me I’m an idealist and believe in following your passions and the rest will follow.
What does your job involve on a daily basis, and what types of responsibilities do you have in your position?
Everyday seems to be different. I usually start the morning working from home going over emails, making calls, sketching & designing. Late afternoon I usually go into the sample room and work with my Sample Maker or go to meetings with buyers, stores, etc… As an independent designer and brand I have to wear many hats and play different roles to make sure everything is going smoothly.
Did you ever have any doubts or challenges along the way? If so, how did you overcome them?
Of course, having your own business is a challenge. Overcoming the doubts and challenge is the only option I tell myself. You learn to figure it out and ‘fail your way to success’.
Can you tell us about the process of starting your company: getting funding/investors, hiring staff, designers, graphics, adverting, etc?
I started the company with my husband/business partner and so far we have not approached investors or hired staff. In our first year, we stayed lean and I was the only full-time employee. It was a great learning experience taking on the role as entrepreneur, designer, production, sales, pr, marketing, etc… In 2014, we plan to find the right partners and employees to bring on.
What can we look for from your company in the coming years?
To continue to create bags that I love and hope the world will love as well.
Random fun fact about yourself or what’s been the defining
I love to be hands on. As an artist/designer all I want to do is create. I wish I didn’t have to focus on the rest of the business so I can just stay in the studio and make art. Defining moments in my career was winning the Best Handmade Handbag through IHDAwards and winning the Amex Open Rising Star Of Fashion this year. These were both prizes for handcrafting and doing what I love. This makes me smile.