All too many times whie shopping, we find ourselves muttering under our breath, "What was that designer thinking?" And all too many times we really don't want to know.
But for Bliss Lau, that's far from the case.
The designer's intricate and decidedly unique body jewelry -- bracelet/rings that resemble metacarpels, torso chains like rib cages --- has us bursting with intrigue, salivating to understand the line's what, where, why, and how. As usual, Lau fed our cravings, and then some. As if we could expect any less from the norm-shattering woman.
What role in your life does your Hawaiian/ Chinese upbringing play?
Bliss Lau: The tactile experience of growing up in the islands with sand between your toes and sunlight everyday will always be a part of my soul. I always try to infuse the free-flowing feeling of Hawaii into my work. I strongly identify with being a HAPA, or rather person of mixed races (half Chinese half Caucasian), and in many ways growing up in Hawaii and living my adult life in New York City is a similar internal divide.
Now I find myself to be a mix of the islands and the city. I am inspired by the strength the city; it is a very powerful, aggressive place. Only retroactively am I able to decipher my need to cover the body in metal… to create a sort of protective sensual armor.
You kicked off your career with a handbag line. Why did you decide to start with handbags, and what led you to evolve into the body jewelry category?
BL: I believe the creative experience will take me on a journey through a variety of materials and objects.
This particular transition was made because of a love for draping, and a hunger to make something shocking. At the time when I create my first body chain, a chain garment for the body was unheard of! Because I studied apparel in many ways the body chains brought me back to my roots...
I do see myself working in leather and handbags again but have for the past few years been enamored with jewelry!
What role do you think the concept of garments plus jewelry plays in the world of fashion?
BL: Rules. Jewelry is having a moment right now when we are able to break all of the rules! For a woman who works in an office, where she very much still has to follow the ‘rules’ of dress in regard to her clothing, her inner seductress or sense of humor can be expressed through jewelry.
I see jewelry as more of an avenue for personal expression than any other ‘thing’ that we put on our bodies daily.
Who or what inspires you and why?
BL: If a body of land counts as a ‘who,’ I am so very inspired by the New York Botanical Garden. The garden as a whole is an oasis where you feel a communication with the historical buildings, trees and artwork.
Do you know what Kiku is? The imperial flower of the Japanese emperor, a single stem that simultaneously blooms hundreds of perfectly geometrically organized flowers. The natural formations of plants, juxtaposed with the manipulation of the Kiku, is uniquely inspiring to me on so many levels.
Also buildings, the kinds of solutions to holding weight that architects have arrived at over the centuries, will always inspire me.
Your pieces have been said to evoke S+M. Is this intentional?
BL: Within each design I create I try to infuse a little sexy into it! I think that owning your sexuality is something women should all do. It doesn’t mean being trashy or nasty, but rather feeling sensual. This can happen by wearing a body chain underneath your clothes that no one can see, or on top of an outfit for all to see.
So yes it does evoke a bit of naughty, but that is what makes the jewelry fun!
What is the Bliss Lau production process like, from conception to creation of styles?
BL: I love to use visuals from books. Prior to sketching or draping anything I get 15 to 20 library books, and just leave them open in my studio for weeks at a time just absorbing the beautiful things inside. It can take me up to a full year to develop a new concept with this method... and several heavy trips to the library!
I think the superior creative process is a combination of two-dimensional and three-dimensional design. I start sometimes by sketching, and sometimes by draping, then switch back and forth between the two for all of my body chains. Recently I have begun working with 3-D printing, a totally new way for me to work. I still always make paper and tape mockups before we have anything printed to make sure the proportion works right.
What are some of your personal styling tips for your pieces?
BL: My collection revolves around your bust. So you have two options: use the jewelry as a ‘veil’ to drape over the bust, or use it to accentuate. I suggest you put the jewelry on first then plan your outfit around it.
What's on the horizon for Bliss Lau?
BL: Sexy new creations! I am thinking about working more in fine metals, sterling was a start now I am on to yellow and rose gold! Also I have been researching new developments in nickel-free plating techniques, and progressive methods of coloration to metal. In the back of my mind I plan to work more leather into the mix as well.