Young area designer breaks into fashion industry

by Tori Hamby

Eighteen-year-old Lisa Huang, a recent West Mecklenburg High School graduate, will launch a fashion line with Blitz Runway and Couture in Orlando, Fla. in March. (Tori Hamby/MIM photo)

CHARLOTTE – Eighteen-year-old Lisa Huang wants to grow up to be a doctor, but not the kind with a stethoscope and lab coat.

Huang, a recent West Mecklenburg High School graduate and aspiring designer, spent four years building her fashion brand, Amour L.N.H., but has her sights set far ahead. She not only plans to conquer the fashion world, but she wants to attain a Ph.D. in apparel design from Cornell University.

“My mom has always wanted me to be a doctor, so one day I wondered ‘Can you be a doctor in fashion?’” Huang, who will attend N.C. State University’s apparel design program in the fall, said. “I typed it into Google and the program came up.”

But until then, Huang will get her first major toehold in the industry with the launch of her clothing couture line at a boutique in Orlando, Fla.

Huang and Blitz Runway and
Couture owner Dria Garth finalized the deal last spring, while Huang was still taking tests and sitting through classes at West Mecklenburg High School.

The Mountain Island resident’s fashion foray began as a high school freshman. She wanted to make money, but her young age limited her job options. She began crafting handmade purses as a hobby. When teachers and classmates wanted to know where she purchased her creations, the beginnings of Amour L.N.H. materialized.

She began taking orders and before she knew it, started making a couple hundred dollars a week. Friends have asked her to make everything from bags to prom dresses.

Huang, who finds inspiration in her favorite designers Coco Chanel and
Michael Kors, said her designs can best be described as “classy with an edgy twist. Like you would find at (the women’s apparel store) Forever 21 – but better quality.”

As Huang and her twin sister, Janet, pursued modeling throughout the Charlotte area, fashion designers and boutique owners began to notice Huang’s creative style and talent. The news traveled and she struck a deal with a boutique in the South Park Mall area. She received a commission from each piece she sold until all her pieces were off of the store’s shelves and in the hands of Charlotte fashionistas.

Garth offered an undisclosed amount for her pieces up front. In return, Blitz Runway and Couture will have exclusive rights to the line.

“I’m definitely intrigued by the way she handles herself,” Garth, who will launch Huang’s line in March, said. “Her style is amazing. She’s a raw talent that’s going to go a long way.”

Huang’s first big break came when a fellow young designer, Kevin Vain, tapped her to help him design items for his show at last fall’s Charlotte Scene Fashion Week. She helped her friend design and make 13 dresses, in addition to balancing her schoolwork and job at Panera Bread, with about a week’s notice. One night of attaching several hundred Swarovski crystals to a dress left her having hallucinations.

“There are no ifs, ands or buts in the industry,” she said. “You either meet your deadlines or there’s no show.”

And fellow designers, most in their 30s or 40s, backstage at fashion week may have thought they were seeing things while watching the two teenage designers dressing their models backstage. During her first internship at Charlotte-based Olivia Kole Fashion House, the then 15-year-old Huang kept her age a secret among fellow employees so her youth wouldn’t get in the way of their perceptions of her talent.

Huang said she hopes her accomplishments show other aspiring artists and designers that age shouldn’t be a setback.

“Don’t let age or fear stop you, because age can’t determine what you can or can’t do.”

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