Haute Style: Q&A with designer Bliss Lau

One day designer Bliss Lau was procrastinating from working on her suspension handbags, which features draping diagonal chains. She started pinning the chains from her bags to the model form in your New York City studio and, “Viola,” she said, “I had my first body chain.”

From there, the Hawaii-born designer transitioned in fashion jewelry — and pioneered a trend that was quickly seen everywhere.

Lau unveiled her Fall 2011 collection, “Embraced,” in February — with ballerinas on the runway, no less — and returned to the Islands to host two fashion events this weekend. (See below for more information.)

She took the time to chat about her inspirations, her career and what it’s really like to work in the celebrity-filled world of fashion.

Haute Living: Where did you get your inspiration for your latest collected, “Embraced”?
The Embraced collection is a combination of my background in apparel, the leather craftsmanship i learned as a jewelry designer and the recent body jewelry that I have been designing. I was very inspired by muscle structure and movement as well as the concept of creating a sort of sensual armor.

HL: What has been the biggest surprise for you in this phase of your career?
Designing is really such an introverted experience. I am always shocked by what it feels like to then expose that very personal project to the world.

HL: I was reading about an event you attended earlier this year in New York City, where you rubbed elbows with the likes of Alison Brie and Tyson Beckford, to name a few. What’s it like to live in the celebrity-filled world of fashion — and in NYC, no less?
I moved to NYC 10 days after I graduated from Punahou (School) it has been a really long road to learn the culture on the East Coast! People are people everywhere you go; famous or not, they all are like us. Some are kind and thoughtful others are very outgoing or socially awkward!

HL: What designers inspire (or have inspired) you?
I find that so many designers have in essence invented certain ways of making things, I love Claire McCardell for using industrial hardware on handbags and Rick Owens for transforming the way cut clothing he reinvented the shawl collar and made curved-diagonal seems commonplace. I think that I most admire when a single design or designer can alter the collective perspective.

HL: There are some designers who have made Hawaii their base — namely, Fighting Eel and Roberta Oaks. Did you ever think about basing your line from your hometown? And what do you see are the major challenges for local designers?
I really admire the girls at Fighting Eel they have a great business and wonderful exposure and they live here! I would say that the travel is likely the hardest part doing trade shows and possibly traveling to factories. Manufacturing is very reigonal, I would not be able to do the leatherwork in the islands because the leather industry is mostly the northern states. I would love to be physically based in the islands but for now I will have to live in New York and keep my heart in Hawaii!

HL: You’ve done handbags and body jewelry — what’s next?
I am working to continue to expand my fine jewelry collection as well as possibly relaunch handbags (not sure yet but thinking about it) I am working to really master these two crafts and I feel like I still have so far to go!

Lau will be part of a fashion panel from 2 to 4 p.m. this Saturday, May 28 at the Waikiki EDITION Lobby Bar. And she will host “Fashion as Art,” featuring her beautifully architectural handmade pieces — which she refers to as “sensual armor” — using local ballerinas as models at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 29 at the Waikiki EDITION Lobby Bar. (This fashion event was conceptualized by creative director Christian Stroble.) Cost for the event is $10. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.

Like Haute Living Hawaii? Join our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter @HauteLivingHI. Want Haute Living Hawaii delivered to your inbox once a week? Sign up for our newsletter.