With a sense of style, work experience and personality that sets her apart, Rosie Lai is one of the most talented stylists and writers in Hong Kong. After cutting her teeth at a personal styling firm in New York City dressing Forbes Top 50 clients, she is currently the Fashion Editor at Hong Kong Tatler. Her past work can be found in People Magazine, Glamour Magazine, Lane Crawford and South China Morning Post, and she has extensive experience in fashion show production for high-profile events including the Cartier High Jewellery Show in Hong Kong and Carine Roitfeld’s amfAR Fashion Show during the Cannes Film Festival. Recently we visited Rosie at her place and sat down for a chat with her to get a peek into the life of a thriving fashion stylist!
How did you came to work in fashion?
I was born and raised in Hong Kong to very fashionable parents (Sundays were spent at Joyce boutique). Writing was my first passion and I studied journalism at Northwestern, with a focus on fashion magazines. After I graduated, I moved to New York City, even without a job, but I just knew it was where I wanted to be and it was where I was lucky enough to get my first job at Visual Therapy, a luxury personal styling firm. At first, I was hired to create content for their blog, but after studying what I wore every day, founders Jesse and Joe decided to take a chance on me and groom me into a stylist. Moral of the story—the cliché “dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” is actually true.
What is it you love most about what you do?
I feel the greatest thrill on set when all these different talents come together to produce an image. It really feels akin to magic; you never know how the shoot will turn out. Also being employed to put your thoughts on paper for thousands of people to read is pretty cool too.
What is the most challenging?
Balancing commercial interests with creative freedom. Being creative on cue. Navigating the social scene in the fashion industry as an introvert.
What is a typical day for you like?
Well today, I started my day pulling shoes and handbags for a still life accessories editorial I’m styling next week. Then I had to finish writing up the fashion trends for our March issue and requesting show tickets for Milan Fashion Week before heading out to a movie screening with a luxury brand. Some days I go to as many as 5 or 6 events a day, some days I’m staying in to write a feature story, and some weeks I have 2-3 shoots. There’s no such thing as a typical day which is what I love about this job.
What one advice would you give someone who wanted to become a stylist?
Don’t be afraid to knock on the doors of people you admire and offer to assist them. I’ve learned so much about work ethic, organisation and style from my mentors. Then at some point, you have to trust in your own style instincts and believe you’re good enough to strike out on your own and defend your aesthetic.
Which celebrity has the best style?
Celine Dion — she can pull off a full suit and hat like nobody else, and I love how put-together Olivia Palermo always looks and how she could wear almost any colour and any pattern with ease.
What are your all time favourite brands?
Classically, the 3 C’s: Phoebe Philo’s Celine, Chloe, and Christian Dior. For contemporary brands: Tibi, Nanushka, Staud, Ganni, Neous
Pick 3 items from HULA you think everyone should own.
What fashion item can’t you live without?
The real answer: a cashmere scarf because I’m always freezing. The fun answer: big, bold gold earrings to polish any look
What would you NEVER be seen dead in?
Knee-length jorts. I’m just not someone who can pull them off.
Best city to shop fashion?
Tokyo! There’s something for everyone and they really understand quality. In the same boutique in Aoyama you can find something from contemporary brand Staud sitting next to a vintage Ferragamo bag.
Describe your style in 3 words.
Relaxed, sophisticated, feminine
Photography by Daniel Murray