INSPR x Clothing Coulture Meet Tina Lee (@ofleatherandlace)


Emily Lane, Bret Schnitker, Tina Lee


October 24, 2022


Emily Lane 00:09 

Welcome to Clothing Coulture, a fashion industry podcast at the intersection of technology and innovation. I'm Emily lane. 

Bret Schnitker 00:17 

I'm Bret Schnitker. We speak with experts and disruptors who are moving the industry forward 


and discuss solutions to real industry challenges. 

Bret Schnitker 00:24 

Clothing culture is brought to you by Stars Design Group, a global design and production house with more than 30 years of experience. 

Emily Lane 00:34 

Welcome back to another episode of clothing culture today. I am extra excited because we are on set with a beautiful skyline behind us in the great city of New York City. What do you think about that, Bret? 

Bret Schnitker 00:49 

Hey, it's great. It's a wonderful day, we got a great view. We have a wonderful guest today. 

Emily Lane 00:54 

That is right. So Tina Lee, also known by the Instagram handle of leather and lace, many great things to know about her an incredible photographer, a wonderful designer influencer with quite a following. And now educator Tina, welcome to our show. 

Tina Lee 01:15 

Thank you so much for having me. Of course, 

Emily Lane 01:17 

oh my gosh, really. For us. This is a dream. You know, we have been fans of yours, especially as we came to know you through the development of you know, building your very own fashion brand. But the thing for us that we were absolutely astounded by was your, your eye your photography skills. Have you always been kind of inherently a skilled with aesthetics and a photographer at heart, 

Tina Lee 01:45 

thank you so much for the kind words, I did come from a design background before venturing into blogging and influencing social media. So maybe that helped to influence it. I do love illustration and everything artistic since I was a kid. So maybe there is a connection there. 

Bret Schnitker 02:04 

It's amazing. It's next level. I mean, every single image you go through is so perfectly curated. The detail is phenomenal the locations that you shoot at, you know, today in the digital world, you know, everyone, when you look at your pictures, you couldn't be in more perfect locations in every case. And those are literally on location everywhere in the world. 

Tina Lee 02:25 

Yes, yes. That's why it's so busy. We're always getting FOMO chasing like the next popular Instagram spot. It might get a little hectic sometimes and almost like you're chasing trends. But when you look back on all the beautiful images and videos you're able to create, it's really really worth it. 

Bret Schnitker 02:44 

So with today all the craziness that's going on today with travel and restrictions and you know, daily closures and everything. You know, you have this passion for travel, you can tell in all these wonderful spots, Is that causing any challenges with your current shooting schedules? 

Tina Lee 02:58 

Yeah, so previously, it was a lot more intense travel. But now it's more a little bit more intentional. And staying in one place for longer. Obviously, COVID restrictions make it a lot harder to like go between countries. But I tried to go to specific locations where you can get a lot of content in one trip. So for me, it has been okay. But also I have slightly pivoted my content in the past year from travel to more also educational, creative. So it's been a good shift since the pandemic actually. 

Bret Schnitker 03:33 

So that's been a pretty amazing entrepreneurial deal. 

Emily Lane 03:36 

Mm hmm. I can't wait to talk a little bit about your your new series. But I am curious, you know, knowing that you've had to be a little bit more restricted and intentional about your your shoots. Do you find that it's helped you find new areas of creativity? 

Tina Lee 03:51 

Yeah, yeah, definitely. When we were stuck at home last year, at first, it was just like a nice change of pace. But then I realized there's so much creativity that can be done just that home, maybe you just need a backdrop paper and a camera. And there's a lot of ideas that really are within us, and you just need to come up with it and execute on it. And so it really helped me pivot actually. So I didn't feel like I had to always be in an epic location. 

Emily Lane 04:19 

So it is clear to me that you're entrepreneurial in spirit as well as the designer, being on the cusp of launching your very own fashion brand and, and of course, the educational series that we've spoken a little briefly about what made you decide to to take your wonderful life of taking photos and wearing fashion and traveling and scenery and giving back and training the next round of people who have the same dream that you've been living the last several years. 

Tina Lee 04:51 

Yeah, actually it was during the pandemic when everything slowed down and you have a chance to sort of think about what your next steps are, and there was no mo travel. And my friend actually started YouTube coaching before me. And she told me that you would be doing people a disservice by not sharing all of the information and knowledge that you have. And at that time, there weren't that many courses, programs about influence marketing, specifically like growing on social media as an influencer. And so I really wanted to create something that was superior, really comprehensive, could really help someone go from perhaps a job that don't love to pursuing something they can be very, very happy about, and also create memories along the way that they can keep forever. 

Bret Schnitker 05:42 

That's amazing. I think, you know, people over simplify manufacturing, we always talk about that on our podcast, that, you know, you just connect with a supplier and you make goods and it's rarely the case. And I think the same thing happens with influencers, I listen to the buzz in the marketplace and think, oh, you know, people take a couple pictures, they get, you know, some wonderful gigs, and they make a lot of money. And it's not that simple. There's a lot of people that, you know, romanticize the idea about influencers, but it's serious, hard work. And there's got to be some, you know, focused intentionality about, you know, make shifting from, you know, a hobby to a career, you know, we've seen, you know, this need for authenticity and message, consistency and message, and you have it. And so as you start to educate this next generation of influencers, are you finding that they're receptive to that? 

Tina Lee 06:33 

Yeah, I find that there's much more education and transparency on everything that is required and going into, I guess, being an influencer, quote, unquote, but it's really more like a mini startup, you have to be your own PR person. You're your own photographer, your model, and you also do a marketing branding. So you cover a lot as just a one person team. And I think that's why it can get pretty busy and hectic. And 

Emily Lane 07:03 

I love that. So it's not just putting beautiful imagery out there. I think you're right, a common mistake that Bret and I have talked about on several shows, is this idea of launching your own business, you know, a lot of those first mistakes happen, not really having a plan, you know, not really thinking about what you're going to be doing from a marketing standpoint, getting your message out there. So being organized in that makes all the difference of taking a hobby to a real business. And so I'm not sure that a lot of people really fully understand that the world of being a professional influencer, it is a business. 

Tina Lee 07:42 

Yes, yes, I think because it, it started out of passion. And it started out of people sharing information for free. So there's a line between the two, where people often don't really think that it's a business or that it's still a hobby, but it can be both actually, it's kind of a magical world where both combined, and you get to do what you love for a living. 

Bret Schnitker 08:02 

And there has to be a lot of pressure on that too. Because you know, you are the brand equity every day, day in and day out. There's just got to be a lot of, you know, I would think every day your message to your audience has to remain crystal clear and has to remain very authentic, because that's what keeps the audience today, I think total what is the 

Emily Lane 08:23 

line between the influencer community being a true community supportive of one another to this is my business and I need to stand out amongst my competition. Yeah. How do you balance that? 

Tina Lee 08:36 

Yeah, I actually think you can do both. So the community in itself is a very supportive one. Sometimes occasional drama here and there, but just being human, it's natural. But I will say it's actually a very close community. But even by being in the community, you can still shine and be completely different, without having to feel like you're necessarily competing with someone, because after all, your personal brand is unique to you. And so your voice cannot be replaced by someone else. So I feel like it's not really it can go hand in hand. Right, 

Bret Schnitker 09:10 

with the diversity of influencers that are out there. And we're seeing, you know, we're talking to a number of influencers, that that, you know, want to develop their own line. Yeah. And there's, you know, there's a tipping point when that can be successful. And there's a number of factors. There's a curation of thought process, etc. And different demographics and following with your following being your originally Taiwanese background, he moved to Australia spent time in Paris and now in New York, what would you say that your your network looks like today? Is that diverse? Is that global? 

Tina Lee 09:47 

Yes, yes. It's very diverse. I would say majority would be like Asian American, Asian, Canadian, maybe even some Asian Australian, but there's very little connection to the Australian pot, but There's definitely a lot of like minorities and a lot of different ethnicities in the myths. 

Bret Schnitker 10:06 

That's amazing. I mean, I think that, you know, one of the challenges as we start to work on programs, and developing this collection for you, and any influencer is understanding those differences between those the core demographics, they're gonna affect size and styling. And, and I think that's the exciting part. But it certainly, again, is the challenging part and understanding, you know, where to go down the path. And we appreciate kind of your vision and leadership through this, I love the stuff that's coming out, I think there's a piece that's coming out, I won't really betray your styling for holiday. But there's a piece that's got well over 14 yards, or meters of fabric. I've ever done anything with that much fabric. It's beautiful. So yeah, looking forward to your audience to see that. 

Emily Lane 10:51 

So clearly, you are ambitious, you've made a strong business out of your being your own brand, you've launched a video series to educate others. And now you are launching your very own fashion brand. How did you know? Okay, it's time it's time for me to take my history as a designer and build something for myself. 

Tina Lee 11:15 

To be honest, starting a clothing line is always the dream of every fashion design student, you know, at some point in your life. And so I feel like, at this point, my brand is clear enough in the visuals is very, very specific, where I feel like I'm comfortable portraying a very clear vision through this collection. And I think that was sort of the sign and then Aspire came into my life at just the right time. And I spoke with Chantal and I was like, Wow, this could be an amazing opportunity. 

Emily Lane 11:49 

Right? Oh, my gosh, well, we're very excited to see your launch, take off and your brand grow. I personally have my eyes on every garment and your collections. I'm looking forward to acquiring each and every piece. What is your what is your dream for your brand? Where Where would you like to see it go? 

Tina Lee 12:11 

Yeah, I'm hoping that it will continue in the current trajectory, I feel like it's covering a good spectrum of different products, clothing, courses, and working with brands. So hopefully just continuing the way it is right now and be very happy. 

Bret Schnitker 12:29 

And I think it's gonna be successful. You know, this business model is so exciting for us. Because, like you mentioned, you know, I would say in mentoring different people that are, you know, burgeoning designers, seeing being on boards of people that are graduating school, it is the dream and desire of every design student to have their online. The challenge going down that traditional route is, you know, I always talk to them about look, it's a big investment in time and money, three years of positioning, maybe by your five year breaking even, and you're just working tirelessly to get there because there's so much noise online. And in this influencer community, you've developed a loyal following. There are people that are and how could they not you look at your images, how could you not just wait for the next killer image? You've developed that So kind of in reverse, you've developed your audience and now you're plugging in this wonderful brand. And I think it's going to be fantastic. 

Tina Lee 13:25 

I think you mentioned an interesting point when I started the blog, my intention, calling it of leather and laces because those are my favorite materials in design. And I was hoping to build an audience that would be interested in these things. So that one day I could create a collection to market to these people. And it kind of came full circle. 

Bret Schnitker 13:44 

Yeah, we're excited about it. 

Emily Lane 13:46 

Absolutely. Well, before we wrap today, I would love to learn Yeah, I'd love to hear your advice for somebody who might have similar goals. You know that love photography, love fashion, you know, would see this world of being an influencer is exciting and glamorous, what would be some key points of advice you would share with them to help them get started on their journey? Yeah, 

Tina Lee 14:11 

usually the biggest concern when starting is people's judgment. And there will be some judgment unfortunately. But I think it's important to know that as long as you always work with integrity, you are authentic to your voice and you don't force things then you can always stand proud of your brand and be able to stand up to any haters that may come and also just brush them off because they're always going to exist and you won't change just because something you know negative was said about you so be proud and move forward with confidence. 

Bret Schnitker 14:44 

Awesome. Where can they learn more about your classes? Yeah, through. 

Tina Lee 14:49 

So since this is a podcast, I also actually have a podcast for it. The course is called Full Time Influencer can find it on various platforms. Perfect. 

Bret Schnitker 14:59 

That's wonderful. 

Emily Lane 15:00 

Well, thank you, Tina for joining us today. It has been an absolute delight and dream to have a conversation with you. Thank you and we'll make sure to share some images alongside of the blog that accompanies our podcast. And we look forward to watching this journey develop for you. 

Bret Schnitker 15:17 

Thanks for the collection in holiday. 

Tina Lee 15:20 

Yes, so exciting. Thank you so much for having me. 

Emily Lane 15:23 

Thank you. Thank you for joining us today. Make sure to subscribe to stay apprised of upcoming episodes of Clothing Coulture 

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INSPR x Clothing Coulture Meet Tina Lee (@ofleatherandlace)