Parisa Wang, Designer
I met Parisa at The Business of Fashion's live podcast recording, featuring Rebecca Minkoff. During the cocktail hour, she approached me with interest in my background. After much chatter about my projects, I asked Parisa for HER story. This beautiful, young woman told me she had her own luxury bag collection, The Love Affair, and I immediately knew I wanted to learn more.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A fashion designer - I always wanted to be a designer growing up. I still remember the excitement and thrill when I was first introduced to fashion illustration when I was in the 8th grade. The mixture of fine lines, vibrant color, and vivid postures composed a beautiful symphony in my mind, leaving an imperishable impression on me. I was deeply drawn to drawing, painting and designing. Even though I didn’t get to do a lot of arts growing up, I would volunteer to create visual boards for the school and different student organizations. I always loved to express an idea into something tangible that is visually attractive and functional.
Where did you grow up? Did your surroundings influence your path in life?
I grew up in China and artistic expression was not a warmly accepted ideal during my childhood because the arts were seen as a waste of time and as an impediment to academic success. I didn’t openly pursue art until I attended college in U.S. However, I always find opportunities to immerse myself in drawing, designing and creating things growing up. My desire to become a fashion designer never fades entering college to pursue a business degree. Instead, it grows even stronger and deeper. I could have followed my parents’ insistence and a traditional career path. However, at the end of the day, I could not help but feel empty and lost. I asked myself, is this the path that would make me happy? Will I wake up every morning excited to go to work? Will my work have any lasting value in the world? I imagined what I would tell my grandchildren one day when they asked about my life. I could tell them that I chose a safe and responsible career choice for me at the time. But I would much rather tell them that when I was young, I decided to take a risk to follow my dream and have never looked back since. I chose to stay true to myself. I chose to pursuing the things I truly love and make it a lifelong pursuit. Had held work experiences with 3.1 Phillip Lim, J Crew and Pologeorgis Furs, I started my own business in 2015.
You founded Parisa NYC. When did you realize you wanted to start your own line?
Last year I ended a four-year long distance relationship, I went through the hardship and heartbreak, but eventually picked myself back up that built my strength and courage. I was enlightened by the process of recovery and inspired by the gracious and emotional support from other strong women. I, therefore, wanted to spread an equally encouraging and supportive message to others. That’s why I created The Love Affair, a line of handbags capturing 5 stages of a relationship to inspire courage and confidence. I also wanted to work hard for something I love instead of working for a boss.
What do you think is the biggest struggle women go through in their careers and in life?
Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to “Lean In”; Elizabeth Gilbert inspires readers to live a creative life; Hillary Clinton is fighting hard to break the glass ceiling. When women seek for leadership roles or senior level positions, they are oftentimes perceived as aggressive and non-approachable. While some women are struggling with defying social expectations, many strong women have set excellent examples for us and encourage us to dream to win big. Ultimately, when your business is failing and needs a hero, you have to step up and become the hero to fight for it. When that happens, anything else seems to be less of a concern.
What was the best advice you have ever given to a client and the best advice you have ever received?
My best advice that I have ever given and have ever received is “Have doubts? Do it to test out.” We all go through phrases of self-doubt and self-questioning. “Should I launch a crowd funding campaign?” “Should I go to this fashion conference in Texas by myself?” “Should I ..” Fear and hesitation underlined in many of my decision makings.
I turned to my entrepreneur friend for help and he told me that the only reason why I was questioning about these questions was because I hadn’t tried them out myself. That was my “a light bulb goes off in my head” moment.
I took off to Texas alone and made valuable connections for my business. I launched a Kickstarter crowd funding campaign (www.parisanyc.net) two months later. It felt like I jumped off a cliff when I clicked the launch button. That was also the moment I realized that when I was free falling and had no safety net as a backup, I latched onto anything I could along the way.
When my fellow entrepreneurs turn to me and ask me whether they should do certain things, I tell them “Feel the fear, do it anyway.”
Would you like to leave us off with a fun fact about yourself?
I have been Zumba dancing for 3 years and absolutely love it. It started in College when I was an RA and got to host monthly events including Zumba for my residents. I kept the habit after I moved to the city. The combination of upbeat music and fast paced motion is the best way for me to release stress and stay focused.
Interviewed by Emily