Local Designer to Watch: Elaine Lai of Tough Luv Clothing
Elaine Lai, the mind behind the clothing brand Tough Luv, is an inventive, eclectic, and cutting edge designer who fuses edgy street looks with feminine touches to produce pieces that are both beautiful and functional. Her line, which is proudly made in the USA, is sold in hundreds of stores throughout Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New York. In an effort to find out more about Elaine and the Tough Luv brand, I asked her a few questions:
Me: What got you interested in sustainable fashion?
Elaine:When I began working in the Los Angeles fashion industry over 12 years ago, I could not believe the amount of waste that went into manufacturing a single clothing line. Containers of fabric and barrels of dyes and chemicals all being tossed in the trash or down the drain into the water system. It was frightening really! When I started working for Splendid in 2007 they had just launched their first Eco-friendly collection. The Eco-fashion movement was just taking off at that point. I knew it was going to be HUGE and I believe in what it stands for.
Me: What are some of the perks to being a Philadelphia-based designer?
Elaine:The manufacturing facilities that I use here are so supportive of small, local businesses. In LA, it’s hard to get a factory to take your production when they are faced with thousands of units every month for larger companies. In Philly, I get great quality, friendly service, and quick turn times when I manufacture. Also, I feel like I’m part of something with a history.... Years ago, garment manufacturing was Pennsylvania’s second largest industry. Only agriculture was bigger in PA than fashion. I like knowing that history.
Me: How does your background and where your family came from inspire your work?
Elaine:I come from a family who’s history is a melting pot of culture and inspiration. My parents immigrated to America from Hong Kong and brought with them a passion for designing and making their own clothing, while my maternal grandmother came to the United States in the 1940’s from Scotland, believe it or not. It is this combination of cultures that defines me as a designer, fusing old world European traditions with the functionality that fast-paced, technology-driven, metropolitan life demands.
Me: What do the words 'tough luv' mean to you?
Elaine:Yeah, ok, that’s a funny one. It has to do with my dog, and best friend, at the time that I started the brand. She was a rather large pitbull terrier that all my neighbors were deathly afraid of. But she was the biggest, sweetest creature ever. My Tough Luv :)
To read Elaine's bio and see her wonderfully unique designs, go to: