Interview Lisa Hsieh

Full Name please and date of birth

Lisa Hsieh. September 9, 1981. Age 35

Full Names of children and age

Greysen Theodore Chen, December 28, 2015. 

Where are you based?

Los Angeles, California, USA

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If you could describe yourself in one sentence.

A creative, earnest and kindhearted soul who strives to achieve great aspirations but lives for life’s small pleasures.

What was your childhood like?

I was born in Taiwan and spent most of my childhood there until we finally settled in the U.S. when I was sixteen. My parents moved back and forth between Taiwan and the U.S. when we were young so I would say that I am the product of two very distinctive cultures. Growing up in Taiwan, I had a tight knit group of friends that I am still in touch with today. Exceling in academics was extremely important but my parents had always allowed me to pursue my interests in the arts, especially in drawing and painting. I had a big family and we lived close to the lush mountains of Taiwan so I fondly remember our family weekend hiking trips into the forest and our picnics by the brooks. My childhood was filled with great memories of fun, adventure, and meaningful family traditions. When we moved to the U.S., I had to start over again, make new friends, and try to find my place in a completely different country. But children are impressionable and can easily adapt. Soon I felt at home in California. My bi-cultural upbringing made me who I am today. Perhaps my tenacity came from having to start over from the ground up each time we followed my parents from one place to another. But through it all, I look back to my younger years with fondness and gratitude. I’d like to think that one day my son would also look back to his childhood with the same warm nostalgia I have for mine.

Tell us about your life before motherhood.

My life before I became a mother was considerably less busy than my life now raising a child. The interesting thing to me is that I didn’t even realize how much free time I used to have on my hands before I became a parent. I’d spent most of day working a typical 9 to 5 schedule knowing the rest of the evening was mine to do as I pleased. Meet up with friends and stay out until the wee hours? Not a problem. Plan an impromptu weekend getaway with my husband? Sure, why not. When I thought I was busy, it was because I filled my extra time with social events and leisure activities. Since becoming a mother, my time is no longer my own to dictate as I please. My son and his needs will always come first and this means making sacrificing and compromises on our part. Having a child while running a business is also a challenge. My business is a part of our family’s livelihood but with an infant that is completely dependent on me, I’ve had to put more ambitious career goals on hold. I’m much more busier now, but now I can’t imagine my life with my son.

What do you do for a living?

I am an apparel designer and business owner with my own clothing brand, Mien Studios that I started in 2015.

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Can you tell me about Mien Studios?

I started Mien Studios so I can offer beautiful, well-made clothing that is made domestically in the U.S. I wanted to create a line with an understated, elegant and minimal aesthetic. Having my line manufactured in the U.S. ensures that I can be hands-on with the entire process from design to final production. The final designs are made through small-scale productions, with no more than fifty pieces cut and sewn in each style colorway. Instead of following the typical fashion calendar and introducing multiple collections a year, I introduce new designs when they are ready. My customers know that every piece they purchase from Mien will be lovely, well designed, and one of a few.

Can you express some stories that have helped shaped you in the design industry?

I am a fashion designer with a degree in fine art. I didn’t acquire a fashion design degree like many other designers in the field but instead gained my professional acumen through working my way up from the bottom as an intern until I became a designer for several premium brands in Los Angeles. I was content with my work but the fashion industry is cut throat and its schedule can be grueling. Feeling burnt out, for a few years in between, I decided to leave the industry and pursue my interest in interior design. So I quit my job, enrolled full-time in a graduate program studying art and interior architecture. I stepped away from a budding career so I could take a good look at the path I was on. It was a risk knowing that the apparel industry is notoriously difficult and competitive. Leaving so abruptly could jeopardize my chances of getting back in. Yet, my bold move was one of the best and most pivotal decisions I have made in my professional career. By stepping back, I could objectively examine where I was at that point in my life and I was headed in the direction I wanted to go. Choosing an education in a completely different field also fortified and rejuvenated my creativity as a designer. Being a designer is a lifelong learning process. After a few years, I came full circle and now I am back in the fashion industry but this time I have my own company with a collection I am proud of.

Tell us your experience of body image after having your little one(s)?

I see my growing baby and I still can’t believe that my body was able to bring this human being into this world. Through pregnancy and nursing, my body has been stretched to its limits then slowly deflated once I stopped nursing. My body is not as tight as before, it will never look as it was before my pregnancy, and I am still trying to lose the baby weight. These dramatic changes are definitely visible. I realize some women bounce right back after having a baby. I’m not one of them. But to me, these changes are inevitable with the passage of time for every woman, whether they choose to go through pregnancy or not. I look different than I used to but it’s only because my body carried out the astounding task of pregnancy and birth. In exchange, my body gave me a beautiful baby boy. Today, I look into the mirror and I still see myself, my spirit is there, I actually feel stronger, and infinitely more confident. There is a tenderness and love that comes out of me when I’m with my baby and with that, I feel stronger than ever.

What / Who inspires and motivates you?

My mother inspires and motivates me to follow her footsteps in how she raised us. She had to make sense of balancing a career and motherhood at a time when most women give up their jobs to take care of their children at home. She was the anchor of our family, cooking us homemade meals, running the household, all the while juggling a professional career as a secretary and accountant. She put all our needs before hers.

When she came to the U.S. with my father, without knowing how to speak the language she still managed to make the transition as smooth as possible for us. Her resourcefulness and courage to create a life for us no matter the circumstances speaks to the love she had for my sisters and I. To move to a country where she had no family and didn’t even speak the language with three small children in tow is a feat that I can’t fathom to conquer myself. There are days when I feel exhausted and pulled in too many directions, I imagine of how she must have felt when she first landed her feet on a foreign land with children in tow and I somehow will find the strength again to push through whatever trouble I am going through.

 

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What does a typical day look like for you?

Grey and I start our day at 8:00 every morning. After changing him into his play clothes, we have breakfast together then he gets to roam around the house, play with his toys, or I’ll read a few books to him. On a good day, he can nap for two hours in one stretch and that’s when I squeeze in my work. I pack orders that need to be shipped that day, answer emails, write up a blog post or take photos to create content for Mien’s social media pages. My friends, some who are also business owners, regularly stop by to visit and catch up. It’s always great to catch up with them over a simple lunch at home. In the afternoon, Grey has naptime, a bath then I cook dinner. Once he goes to bed at 9:30, my husband and I then can share our day with each other or just relax and watch an episode of our favorite shows. We’re both in bed by 11:00. While the boys sleep, I relish the moment of peace and tranquility. I’ll read for an hour before I doze off.

How has motherhood changed your life?

Motherhood has changed my perspective of what is important to me in life. My center of gravity is now my child. He keeps me grounded and focused. I never realized my capacity to unconditionally love someone could be so boundless. The unexpected life changes that come with being a new parent doesn’t seem as daunting when I’d gladly make any sacrifices for my child. Before we had Grey, our priorities were to work hard and focus on our individual careers. We looked forward to planning our next date night out or that next vacation. With him in our lives now, we are perfectly content just spending the entire day together at home. We work harder, not just for our own sake of happiness any longer, but also to give our son the best life that we can. We also appreciate our parents more because we love our children the same way they loved us. We hold family and friends close to our hearts because life is now about the time we spend with people we care about and the memories we can create with them. I am still myself, but being a mother gave me even more empathy and a greater sense of purpose.

What did you think of motherhood before you became a mother?

I’ve always wanted to have children someday. I looked forward to becoming a mother and to love and be loved by my children. I understood, to some extent, the kind of sacrifice a mother makes for the sake of her kids but also the joyous fulfillment she can expect in return. Now that I am a mother, I experience first hand the range of emotions and physical demands being a mother requires. The love that I have for my child is infinitely greater than what I ever thought I could give. The level of physical stamina it takes to keep up with a rambunctious child is astonishing. I have little to no time to do things for myself with a little one in tow and it takes some creativity to squeeze in work in between the small gaps of free time I can find. Motherhood exceeded every naïve expectation of what I thought it would be. It’s so much more demanding, so much more exhausting, yet so much more rewarding and heartwarming than I ever imagined.

What’s your biggest challenge as a mother?

Free time, and how little of it I have now. My first year as a mother flew by right before my eyes. Everyday I’m preoccupied with things I need to do for baby Grey but there are also obligations I need to fulfill for my growing business as well. For a while, I was burning the candle on both ends – dedicating my entire day to caring for Grey then packing orders, answering emails, updating my website, and everything else for Mien at night when Grey is asleep. Needless to say, I couldn’t keep up with that grueling schedule for very long. Now I do what I can with the little bits of time I find in between during the day. I’ve also started dropping Grey off with a babysitter from time to time so I can have an entire afternoon to catch up on my do-to list, or if I feel particularly exhausted, sit back with a cup of coffee and just unwind. If I start seeing the lack of free time I have to do the things I want as a challenge and a temporary situation that will pass, it’s easier for me to cope. The reality is, Grey won’t be this little forever and I’m going to enjoy my time with him while I can.

What’s your number one beauty and fashion tip for the busy mom?

Find and keep only classic, effortless and well-made pieces to have in your closet. The last thing we busy moms need to worry about is putting together an elaborate outfit and trying to match everything when we also have little ones to dress before we dress ourselves. Take some time and put together a few looks to keep on rotation that are understated but elegant so all you need to do to change up the look is by switching up accessories, jewelry, or shoes. Just remember that versatile and minimal pieces in a neutral, sophisticated color palette will never let you down. As for beauty, I’m a fan of a clean face with just a sheer layer of bb cream, a healthy flush on the cheeks, a good strong brow and paired with whatever lip color I feel like wearing that day. For fancier nights out, I’ll add some mascara and a light wash of shimmering brown eye shadow that compliment my eye color on the lids.

Describe being a modern mother.

As a modern mother, I don’t want to be defined by only my role as a mother. I have always had my own aspirations, endeavors, and goals. I shouldn’t have to relinquish all of these qualities that make me who I am simply because I became a parent. I’ve come to understand the importance of maintaining a sense of self because it’s essential to my own wellbeing. My son needs a happy mother and the key for me is to find balance between self-identity and motherhood. By embracing other mothers who are experiencing the same life changes as I am, I learn so much from their challenges and triumphs. Modern motherhood is more than just being a mom who is always there for my son every step of the way. I also want to grow along with him. I want to enrich my own experiences, gain new perspectives, and become a better person every year so I can pass along the best things I’ve learned in my life to him.

What’s in your handbag right now?

I carry very few things in my handbag because I like knowing exactly what I have in there so I will never have to dig through a messy handbag when I’m in a bind. I’ll always have my phone, YSL Rouge Pur Couture lipstick in Le Orange, my Saint Laurent credit card case, business cards, and my keys with me. I keep baby Grey’s things only in his diaper bag so if I need to run out of the house on my own I don’t have to fish all of his stuff out to lighten my handbag load.

Favourite quote/ saying?

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin
“Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.” – Coco Chanel

What could you not live without?

I absolutely cannot live without my kitchen. Cooking helps me relax and unwind. There is something down to earth and comforting about cooking from scratch; working my hands through fresh kneaded dough, or tending to a slow-cooking roast, whatever effort is put into the food in the kitchen and no matter how successful or sometimes unsuccessful the end result is, I gain a sense of accomplishment. My kitchen will soon be where I show my son how to cook. A part of our new family history will be built in our kitchen.

Can you give a quote about that you think of Mother Muse?

A thoughtfully, beautifully curated magazine filled with inspiration and revelation for the multifaceted, modern mothers of today.

Mien Studios

Photography Jack and Lola

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