Designer Q&A with Emily
When did your love of fashion begin?
I have very distinct memories of shopping with my mom as a little girl and picking things for her to wear. I remember she and my dad were going to a black-tie event and I convinced her to buy a red strapless dress with a sweetheart neckline and a bubble skirt — it was the 80s after all! I don’t know if that was when my love of fashion began, but I think it’s my earliest fashion-related memory.
You studied economics as an undergrad. How did you find your way into fashion design?
I was interested in fashion way before I was interested in economics. I was always drawing and sewing my designs as a child, but there was a challenge in economics that I really enjoyed. I took my first economics class my senior year of high school and it was the first time I had to go in to get extra help for a class. Once it clicked, I really liked it.
When it came time to decide where to go to college and what to study, I was nervous that if I pursued fashion design, I would graduate with a degree that was too specific if my interests changed. I decided to study economics and took costume production classes on the side to learn about patternmaking and draping. I was still interested in fashion design as I approached graduation, so I applied to Parsons in New York. I got in and loved every minute of design school. I interned and worked at fashion companies while studying for both degrees. I gained experience at amazing companies in product development, buying, PR, and design. I think having all of those experiences gave me a good understanding of the industry and the vast opportunities that it had to offer, and that ultimately I wanted to be a designer after all.
Where does the name of your line, Wai Ming, come from?
Wai Ming means “gift of light” in Chinese. It was my middle name before I got married and it was given to me because I was born on the longest day of the year. I have always loved it and identified with it and was happy to include a piece of me when naming my business.
Describe the woman you design for.
I love designing for the strong, dynamic, global woman. She is modern day warrior princess who balances a demanding career, a busy social calendar, and a hectic family life. I love creating pieces that are clean, feminine, architecturally inspired, and thoughtfully versatile. This woman appreciates the beauty and ease of our effortlessly polished aesthetic.
Who are your mentors? What have you learned from them?
It’s hard to name just one or two people because I have been really lucky to have a whole network of friends and family that I turn to. They have expertise in a wide range of areas and have provided advice and guidance that has been vital to the growth of Wai Ming. They specialize in everything from design, fashion PR, marketing, brand building and strategy, law, product development, sales, and entrepreneurship. I have known most of these people for most of my life and they graciously answer my incessant questions, have made incredible introductions, and always have my best interest in mind when making suggestions or giving advice.
What is your go-to tool for designing?
Pencil and paper.
Who do you dream of dressing?
How would you describe your line in one word? Modern yet feminine.
Instagram user who inspires you?
Nicole Warne and Chriselle Lim.
Favorite piece you’ve designed?
The fist piece I designed for my collection: a silk georgette dress with hand tucking around the neckline.
A trend you’re not into?
I can appreciate pretty much any trend that comes through even though it might not apply to my line or my aesthetic.
What inspires you most?Travel.
First piece of clothing you loved?
A pink t-shirt dress with tiny bows sewn all over the bodice.
Photos by Geoff Story, toky branding + design
EMILY BRADY KOPLAR
Wai Ming launched in high-end specialty boutiques in 2012 and has continued to define its place in the contemporary design space with its clean, feminine-yet-graphic aesthetic, intricate design details, and thoughtfully versatile designs. The line, which has become known for its dresses, is designed for and inspired by strong, dynamic, global women who appreciate the beauty and ease of Wai Ming’s effortlessly polished aesthetic. Each piece from the collection is carefully crafted in the best factories of New York’s Garment District using luxurious fabrics from Italy and Japan.
Wai Ming meaning “gift of light” in Chinese, is the given middle name of founder and designer, Emily Brady Koplar. Emily – who divides her time between St. Louis and New York – has worked in the fashion industry for more than a decade but started designing and making clothes in her early childhood. She obtained a degree in Economics from Boston University before deciding to follow her true passion of fashion design and earning a degree from Parsons School of Design.
Wai Ming has been featured in national media outlets including InStyle, People StyleWatch, Lucky Magazine, W, TeenVogue, Martha Stewart Weddings, Women’s Health, Refinery29, and WhoWhatWear. The line has also gained celebrity fans in Taylor Swift, Emma Roberts, Carrie Underwood, Ellie Kemper, Lindsey Vonn, Katharine McPhee, Taryn Manning, Ashley Benson, Meagan Good, Holland Roden and popular fashion bloggers Chriselle Lim, Courtney Trop, Lindsey Albanese, Haya Tetroashvili, and Nichole Ciotti .