Interview with the creators of Fleet Clothing
What are your names, where are you from and how old are you?
Lisa: My name is Lisa Hsieh and I’m 31. I was born in Taiwan. Growing up, my family moved between the States and Taiwan then permanently settled down in the US when I was 16.
Eileen: I’m Eileen Chai, I’m 30 and currently reside in a Los Angeles suburb.
Where did you study and what did you get from the experience?
L: Eileen and I met and became room-mates (and instant friends!) at the University of California, San Diego. My major was in fine art. Post graduation, I studied fashion design at Otis in Los Angeles, then I was hired to help start up a premium denim company.
E: I received my undergraduate degree in communications from the same college as Lisa. I started my career in marketing in the cosmetics industry and eventually ventured into purchasing, branding and product development.
Which of your current designs is your favourite and why?
E: From our current line, the Etiquette dress is my go-to favourite. It’s a classic little black dress with a very feminine full-pleated skirt that’s reminiscent of vintage pieces from the 1950s. Not only does it work for nearly every occasion, but also styling it is a snap…it really does go with everything.
Are all the current designs featured on your Etsy site your own? Do any designs come from outside the brand?
L: Yes, everything on Etsy is of our design. Eileen and I design things we would want to wear ourselves. We draw inspiration from vintage fashions, art books, magazines, what people are wearing and everyday life.
How many of the designs/products are handmade by you?
L: We design all of our clothing styles on Etsy and have them sewn by our team in Downtown Los Angeles. I currently hand-make all of our jewellery pieces and Eileen still sews all of the hand-finished components. It’s a lot of work but we enjoy it.
E: It has been tough to keep up due to the sheer volume of orders we receive each day, but we continue to add personal handmade touches to some designs.
What has been the highlight of your careers so far?
E: To see how Fleet has developed and grown in such a short period of time is by far the brightest highlight of my professional career. Lisa and I started Fleet 18 months ago on a whim, and now we’re operating a full scale online shop showcasing our original designs.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
E: Jason Wu is an exquisite designer and I love his work. Fleet is currently working on a collaboration project for a jewellery line with an international boutique, but that’s still a work in progress.
L: One of the designers I admire is Isabel Toledo. Her innate sense of folding and draping fabric into architectural garments that somehow flatter a woman’s body perfectly is impressive.
Have customers ever asked for specific variations of your original designs?
E: By far the most popular request is a dress version of Fleet’s Aura design, which is a tunic-length blouse with flowing layered tiers and a back chiffon bow. We have yet to complete a design for the dress version, as simply lengthening the bottom tier or even adding an extra layer isn’t quite as figure flattering as we hoped. Instead, we created the Fields dress to feature a similar design element of the chiffon sash bow on racer-back bodice, but the silhouette is completely different. The Aura dress is still a work in progress; we get enquiries on it almost every day!
What are your favourite things about your job? Any negatives?
L: I love the design process – brain-storming with Eileen, sketching, choosing fabric, choosing finishing touches, then seeing it all come together in a first sample is always exciting. Of course, I expect there to be a downside with every job or business. We work very long hours and have market shows every weekend so that takes a lot of time away from family and friends. Sometimes there are new things I have to learn how to do on the spot quickly, such as tweaking our website, yikes! Times like those are stressful and I’m still learning as I go how to balance managing my own business without having to miss out on small pleasures in life.
I adore your Derica design… do you find yourself wearing a lot of your own work?
L: We love our Derica dress also! We each have one in every colour. I love wearing everything in our line. The styles are sophisticated and the fit on every garment is always flattering and comfortable.
Have you any plans for the future? What can we expect from your next collection?
E: We’re experiencing increased traffic, so we’re definitely working on a shiny new website to provide a more pleasant and streamlined shopping experience. As of now, we’re finishing up a limited edition run of our best-selling Petit Dejeuner dress in ocean hues and with a modified fit for spring 2013. I’m also very excited about our fall/winter 2013 line for next year. We’re planning lots vibrant colours and rich textures. I’d like to double the size of the collection by this time next year, and hopefully we will schedule in a few fashion shows to increase exposure for Fleet.
How would you describe your personality, and is this reflected in your work?
E: Interestingly enough, Lisa and I have very different personal styles but we always seem to gravitate towards the same things. We have similar preferences when it comes to design aesthetics and colour palettes.
L: I would describe my personality and style as artistic and quirky. I like bold, unusual statement jewellery, or accessories paired with solid coloured, classic dress silhouettes. Eileen’s style is very different from mine yet somehow we like the same things but just wear them differently.
What made you decide to become a fashion designer?
E: I think the decision found us. Fashion is a mainstay fixture in my life, so when we were bouncing around ideas for a business, this is what I found to be the most intuitive and inspiring.
Photos: Courtesy of Fleet Clothing
To visit their popular Etsy shop, click here.