What is your earliest design memory for your brand?
I had always wanted to launch my own brand and had the name “The Chrysalis Lab” in my head since 2016. It wasn’t until 2020 during the pandemic that I actually had some downtime from my hectic styling schedule to really focus on evolving The Chrysalis Lab from an idea into reality.
My first design project for the brand came about as I was inspired to create an uplifting alternative to the increasingly essential protective face mask. Evoking nature as a source of beauty, inspiration and meaning whilst playing off my brand name, The Butterfly Mask was born.
I really wanted to send a positive message out into the universe during this time which was challenging for all. Butterflies are known to be a powerful symbol of endurance, change, hope and life. I think during this time a lot of people slowed down and connected more with nature and with everything going on in the world ,the transformational nature of the butterfly was very relatable to many.
My first face mask collection, The Viceroy, was very bright and colorful, merging the power of Butterfly symbolism with the concept of dopamine dressing. Essentially, wearing clothing that brings you joy.
As restrictions lifted and people began to venture out again, I went on to create the Metallic Monarch collection. It was designed to be accessorized much like jewelry incorporating subtle shine in silver and gold to go with any outfit and take the wearer from day to night.
I also designed a neutral-colored, more manly Moth collection for my male clientele.
But I am most proud of the Limited Edition and Patchwork collections where I upcycled designer dresses and denim that were damaged to create one of a kind hand embroidered Butterfly masks.
This upcycling design directive has ultimately become the core of my brand.
“We are showcasing knitting as the means of transformation, which I think is a unique approach to the upcycling process and sets our collection apart from others.”
Do you have a passion other than fashion or design?
I love nature. I live at the beach and just the sound of the ocean, the sunsets, the rocks, the sand, and the freedom of being on the water never gets old for me.
I love to travel too. My goal when traveling is to not just see a new place, but really experience it and truly get a feel for what it would be like to live there. I find it so inspiring and I’m always captivated when I find a place that I naturally feel at home in.
I am also blessed to have two amazing children and two adorable dogs, and I am always passionate about spending time and creating magical memories with them.
How important is social media to your brand?
To be honest, I’ve never really done any social media in my career as a stylist, which has worked in my favor as most of my styling clients are very protective of their privacy.
This however does come as a shock to many in this social media driven world we live in so I do have a #emmatrask just to give people something to tag.
For my brand, it is important and I think Instagram in particular is useful in terms of getting the aesthetic and values of my brand out there in the public realm and to connect with likeminded individuals, artists, designers and other brands.
What sets your brand apart from the rest?
I love seeing other brands who are focused on upcycling and sustainability, and I don’t think there can or will ever be too many.
What I love most about what we all do is that in creating a one-of-a-kind garment from found pieces, vintage or dead stock usually, it’s very hard to copy. The wearer knows the garment is unique to them.
For our debut custom CoLab collection, we are showcasing knitting as the means of transformation, which I think is a unique approach to the upcycling process and sets our collection apart from others.
As we grow, we will continue to offer new and innovative ways of upcycling garments for our customers that are unique to The Chrysalis Lab. This space we are in has unlimited potential creatively which is very exciting.
What was your previous work experience before launching your brand?
I have a business degree and began my career in event marketing in New Zealand for companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Telecom New Zealand, Television New Zealand, and Saatchi and Saatchi.
After moving to New York City in the late 90s, I fell into fashion and ended up starting a career in styling there. I soon made the very well-timed move to Los Angeles right when the celebrity fashion explosion started and made a name for myself here as a celebrity stylist.
My editorial styling resume includes many of the biggest names in entertainment, and the extensive list of music videos I have styled for my longtime client, Carrie Underwood, have won numerous Video of the Year Awards. Most recently, I costume designed Carrie’s Las Vegas residency, which received a lot of praise in the press.
Over the years, I’ve styled many high-profile advertising campaigns across several industries. In beauty, for companies such as Jean Paul Mitchell Systems, Ulta Beauty, Smashbox and Morphe Cosmetics. In hotel and retail for companies such as SBE, The Venetian, The Shops at Crystals, and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
And in entertainment for the CW Network launching shows such as America’s Next Top Model, Gossip Girl, Riverdale and All American. My work with the CW led me to costume designing several TV shows and I received a Hollywood Style Award for my work on the CW’s reboot of Melrose Place.
Do you have a favorite piece that you have designed?
At the moment, it is a cream piece from our new Chrysalis CoLab collection. It was a Marni skirt that was transformed into a sweater dress with dramatic oversized textured knit sleeves.
We call her Josephina, the family name for the Giant White Butterfly which is what this unique piece reminds me of.
What did you wear to your first job interview?
Probably something way to fashion forward for a corporate job. I’ve always been pushing the boundaries.
What is your favorite fashion trend? Least favorite?
Right now Puffers… we did a Cocoon Cape upcycled from sleeping bags a while ago which is getting a lot of attention, now interesting puffers are being highly sought after. We also do sleeping bag pants, which take the puffer trend to another level.
My least favorite trend is probably the square toe strappy heeled sandals… can’t really tell you why but I’ve seen them come and go a couple of times already and I’ve always avoided them.
Where do you find inspiration?
Nature and Travel.
How would you describe your personal style?
Eclectic, quirky, unexpected.
Where is your favorite place to travel? Why?
Greece… so much to explore with all the islands and even on the mainland. I love the landscape, the design aesthetic, the lifestyle, the food and the easy-going, welcoming nature of the people.
But most importantly, it just feels like home whenever I’m there. So much so I chose to shoot my last brand campaign there and will probably go back for the next one. I have such an amazingly talented team I work with out of Athens.
“My goal for The Chrysalis Lab is to bring upcycling and sustainability to the forefront of fashion.”
What inspired you to name your brand?
I came up with the name while on a road trip to Sedona, Arizona. I was sitting beside Oak Creek which in Native American culture is believed to be one of the many vortexes in the area which hold powerful energy.
I watched beautiful butterflies dance across the water, and they reminded me of fairies. The vision for my brand and its name just came to me in that magical moment.
I thought about where the beautiful butterflies came from…. a “Chrysalis” and realized the transformative process of their rebirth from a caterpillar to butterfly was so representative of the upcycling process I loved to do.
Adding “Lab” made sense to me as I have always seen my creative process as much like an experiment combining different elements which react in unexpected ways visually until it all just clicks and I know I have created something special.
Also “Lab” for me represents the collaborative aspect of my creative process. I work with such a talented team of artisans to create each piece. I’m constantly discovering new talent to collaborate with.
Our new custom collection is all about collaborating with our actual customers which I think is a fresh approach to the traditional fashion CoLab.
What is your favorite fashion film or show?
It is so hard to pick a favorite, but the documentary on Alexander McQueen who has always been a big inspiration to me was so moving and memorable. I also loved Dior and I which follows Raf Simon’s tenure at Christian Dior.
On a lighter note, I cannot forget Unzipped, such a classic fashion film that really captures a moment in time and gives a rare for then, entertaining peek into the behind the scenes of fashion. And I’m not going to lie Ab Fab and Zoolander’s tongue in cheek take on the fashion industry always makes me laugh.
My favorite runway show ever would have to be another one my favorite designers, Jean Paul Gaultier’s Cyber collection of fall 1995. Not only was it futuristic themed, but he somehow managed to be so on point with his predictions with models wearing face masks.
I actually did a limited-edition face mask using Jean Paul Gaultier cyber print fabric from a damaged dress I found which sold out immediately. And I am lucky enough to own one of the velvet gowns that appeared in this runway show, it’s probably one of my most prized fashion collectibles.
How would you define fashion?
Artistic expression of one’s unique identity through the use of clothing and accessories.
What do you envision for the future of your brand?
My goal for The Chrysalis Lab is to bring upcycling and sustainability to the forefront of fashion.
I began upcycling fashion at a young age, reworking vintage pieces while I was still in high school. I love that after all these years in the fashion industry, my career has come full circle, and that I’m doing something that I have always gravitated toward and loved the process of.
And I now know first-hand how important it is to encourage more people to upcycle, and hopefully, put a stop to the tremendous amount of waste and pollution the fashion industry creates every year.
I am opening a studio store in Malibu, California where I live in March 2022 . In addition to our soon-to-launch online custom CoLab service where customers send in their vintage pieces to be Chrysalized into one of kind upcycled creations, I will also have an actual physical space where customers can be part of our upcycling process in person.
My long-term goal is to open sister stores for my brand and bring this upcycling design experience to some of my favorite travel destinations around the world.