Lois Tien, Founder of “SelfWear” Label SoL Gets Comfortable
You may have heard the name Lois Tien before. After all, the Hong Kong-based entrepreneur is the daughter of Michael Tien, founder of G2000, the clothing chain founded in Hong Kong in the early 1980s. With fashion in her DNA, a merchandising degree from the US and experience working with brands like J.Crew under her belt, Tien joined her family business in 2013 by taking over Anagram, a womenswear label under the family’s fashion umbrella. Using her strong business acumen and understanding of what women want, she quickly turned Anagram into a household name with five shops across Hong Kong.
Fast forward to today and the creative entrepreneur has proudly launched SoL, a label that promotes sustainability through “SelfWear”, a new category of loungewear and sleepwear. The garments use Ecovero, an innovative viscose fabric that is made with sustainable wood and feels like a blend between cotton and silk. The brand’s line, which includes robes, dresses, cosy button-downs, lounge pants, eye masks and headbands, couldn’t have been launched at a better time, as people have been spending a lot more time at home lately.
After launching a Kickstarter campaign on August 5, Lois successfully achieved her fund goal within the first 27 hours, an impressive feat in a time of economic uncertainty. But that’s not the only thing she’s celebrating: on June 27, she married her long-time boyfriend Joshua Chan in an intimate civil ceremony in Hong Kong. Could 27 be her lucky number? We think so.
Here, she talks to Tatler about her favourite family traditions, the most famous person she ever met and how she’d cope during a zombie apocalypse.
What does Hong Kong mean to you?
Hong Kong is home. It's a city of harmonious juxtapositions situated in the middle of an island jungle. It’s a perfect blend of urban bustle and eco retreat; developed into a global financial hub from fishing village roots. It balances modern vigour with spirited traditions. There are so many sides to Hong Kong, and this allows me to engage in the widest spectrum of activities here and still feel anchored in one place, in one identity, and I think that’s pretty unique. I was overseas for much of my adolescence but my adult years in Hong Kong were formative in terms of who I became as an adult. Here is where my support system is: my family, my friends, the physical home I grew up in, and that means everything to me. Hong Kong will always be deeply rooted within my identity.
What was the inspiration behind your company?
I grew up immersed in fashion. In the ’80s, my father started a fashion retail company focused on giving men and women confidence and professionalism through quality, affordable workwear. Having worked in the fashion retail industry for more than 10 years, I observed all the excess inventory created by the constant churning out of new collections. I was a buyer and merchandiser for most of those 10 years and I noticed that often the supply ended up outweighing the demand. That, coupled with educating myself on where the waste was going (or not going) and feeling a real wake-up call through documentaries like The True Cost by Andrew Morgan, led me to realign my priorities in the industry. On a more personal level, I realised a few years ago that while I had a knack for accumulating “outside” clothes—clothes to impress, like single-wear cocktail dresses—I thought very little about the clothes I spend more than a third of the day wearing in my own home. This epiphany led me to invest in my own self-comfort and search for, then create, timeless and comfortable clothes for the home.
How easy or hard was it to leave your family business?
It was a difficult choice to make but I think what made it harder was how uncommon this is. The norm is that people often become lifers in their family businesses. Being a part of my family’s business was almost like an extension of being within the family so the longer I was there, the harder it became to detach myself from it. Luckily though, I have an exceptionally understanding family who listened and understood what I wanted to pursue, realised the value of it and encouraged me to break out on my own because they realised it was not something that could be pursued under our current business framework. There is familial obligation but there is also an obligation to myself: to be true to and comfortable with myself and my decisions. At the end of the day, I chose the latter because self-care is at the root of caring for others. You are only as good to others as you are to yourself.
How often do you work from bed?
Never! I am a big compartmentaliser and believe that the fine line between work and sleep must not be crossed at any cost. If I start working from my bed, I would start associating my bed more with my brain being turned on and work mode, and less with shuteye, restful sleep mode. There is an actual science to this, by the way. That's why they say having dedicated sleepwear is important because it signals to your mind that the day is done and it's time to rest. The most “work” I would do from bed is scrub through my emails and do a quick flag of the important ones so I can get to them quicker when I actually get out of bed.
If you could kill any fashion trend forever what would it be?
Personally, I think trends are necessary because they're hilarious to look back on and always make for great stories, but I'd have to go with miniskirts worn with Uggs because that just makes zero sense. I would maybe also kill a contrasting neon, double-popped collar.
What’s your favourite family tradition?
Simple Sundays with the family. We spend it at my parents' home with all the kids and grandkids. There is a lot of food, running around, being chased around and general commotion, but that’s part of being a family.
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The zombie apocalypse is coming. Who are three people you want on your team?
My husband, Bear Grylls and God.
What’s your most used emoji?
🤦🏻♀️🤣 [Face-palm or crying with laughter] Often combined. I do a fair share of laughing with others and laughing at myself.
You have to sing karaoke. What song do you pick?
I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston.
You can have an unlimited supply of one thing for the rest of your life. What is it?
Optimism. I think it's an underrated but essential quality of life. You read news every day of the world imploding in some way or another, but optimism makes good situations even better and brings hope to bad situations. It's also so easy to get bogged down by all the noise and criticism out there, which is totally normal and a fact of life. But having optimism, positivity and hope will keep you focused and carry you miles.
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If you were a wrestler what would be your entrance theme song?
Eye of the Tiger by Survivor or is that because that is the entrance theme song of a wrestler? Another One Bites the Dust by Queen is also a good one.
Do you collect anything?
I'm not a big collector of anything except for handwritten cards and notes. It's probably to do with the personalisation, as I'm sentimental like that. Something about seeing people's handwriting and reading their syntax when that particular card or note was written makes me so nostalgic.
What are some odd jobs you did as a teenager?
I always had fashion internships as a teenager except for one summer when I dipped my toes into banking. It was the only paid internship I did, but it was definitely the oddest for me given my personality and strengths. It made me realise how much I loved and wanted to go back to being in fashion.
If you had a talk show, who would your first three guests be and why?
Arianna Huffington, Miroslava Duma and Gwyneth Paltrow. They live and breathe my favourite topics: sleep, planet-care and self-care.
Who is the most famous person you’ve ever met and did they live up to expectations?
Working with the duo Mickey Drexler and Jenna Lyons at J.Crew was like meeting the two most famous people to me and yes, they definitely lived up to my expectations of being wildly creative, innovative, smart, strategic, business-minded and people-minded with incredible foresight.
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