Fashion blogger, stylist and lingerie designer Jasmine Smith fell in love with Hong Kong. It was love at first stopover; a simple detour that led her off her planned route to instead lay down roots, build a career, find love, and start a family in this city. Hong Kong tends to do that to you doesn’t it? It lures and locks you in until you find your place amongst the diverse residents who lovingly call it home.
When we first met Jasmine, we originally thought to talk about the early days of fashion blogging, as she was one of the pioneers in that space, or even her journey as an image consultant to entrepreneur. But the conversation took its turn to highlight the unglamorous side to it all – the behind-the-scenes work and multiple hats she wears to succeed in a world like fashion.
Let’s take it back to the beginning – what brought you to Hong Kong?
I was on my way to London to continue my styling career. I had a UK working visa, a bank account, ambition enough to work my way up the London fashion scene… and then I stopped over in Hong Kong and I gladly swapped London for the neon bright lights, the relentless foot traffic and the fact I could substitute my New Zealand flip-flops for high heels and my winter jacket for a silk dress.
I had no idea what was in store for me in Hong Kong and I had equally no idea how I was initially going to make it work with no visa, no connections and no job… but I fell hard for this city and all I wanted to do was to stay. So I did.
Growing up, what were your first fashion influences?
Undoubtedly my Mum – I grew up with her hand sewing everything for me from outfits for my Barbie Dolls through to my school prom gowns. No occasion wasn’t met with a pair of dress-making scissors, a pattern and a roll of material.
From her I learnt to how to sew – which has been the basis of my fashion career, as well as self-expression via self-designed and made clothes. She equipped me with all the practical tools to be a seriously expressive youngster as well as encouraged an awesome amount of creative vision.
From afar, you seem to be “doing it all”. You’re an image consultant, a fashion blogger, and an entrepreneur – having designed and developed Raven + Rose. Add to this, your a full time mom. Is being this busy a normal thing for you?
A woman of many projects – this is something of a consistency in my life!
As a fashion student straight out of university in New Zealand, I worked as a freelance fashion stylist – not a very lucrative job in the beginning, so to fuel my desired career I worked a full time job as a waitress in a night restaurant, as a full time barista in a day-time cafe, and took up shifts in a friends cafe when I didn’t have any fashion shoots on.
Two part-time jobs and two full-time… not the first time I juggled life like that and by no means the last. I have been juggling jobs quite simply because they ground and fuel my creative vision. They haven’t always been luxurious – far from it! But they kept the mundane aspects of life in order (my bank account full and the rent paid) so that on the side I could pursue fashion.
I guess juggling a diverse set of jobs all added up to what you are doing now…
My many jobs now orientate themselves ALL in the Fashion industry – I blog, I style, I design and yes, I’m a mum to the coolest little kid… and I can do all of this with a well balanced perspective, because in essence, I have always taken on many projects – it is just now I’m blessed that all those projects lay in the field I always had my vision set on: fashion.
Any current muses in fashion?
I don’t have a muse at the moment – instead I have apps on my phone. I’m finding that these days, I’m orientating my influences around the visual flow of platforms like Instagram and Pinterest – which lacks depth in terms of content but does make for good outfit fuel!
When did the idea “I’m opening my own lingerie brand” spark? Did you have a background in this type of design previously?
I was passing a petrol station on my walk home, who knows what it was about a Petrol Station that triggered a massive change in me (maybe the fumes!?) but I decided I’d completed my full circle. I was about 3 mins away from my home, I quite simply thought ‘I can’t wait to tell Rob’ (my husband).
I’d made and sold lingerie during my years in University and was also encouraged to take a job at ‘Elle McPherson/Bendon’ in New Zealand but I simply knew that it wasn’t the right direction for me. at the time I still had things to learn that weren’t going to come down the traditional track and so I ventured away from the nine-to-five job track as well as out of my home country.
Then one day I was done. I’d gathered all the info, learnt the trades, built the contacts, understood what it means to operate in the digital age – and unglamorously (there were no fireworks or fancy campaign) I simply knew it was time to kick off RAVEN + ROSE. It had always been on the cards, and quite simply the cards in my hands were a Royal Flush.
Lingerie is something so intimate and private for women/couples. In your opinion, what is the effect of lingerie in relationships?
Lingerie is a conversation you can have with your lover without words – and nothing could get the point across clearer!
Tell us what your idea of being “feminine” is in 5 words.
Equal parts soft and strong.
Any top items you must include in your outfit ensemble?
1) Leather Pants – They seem to bring out the ‘me’ in every outfit, no matter if I pair it with a conservative white shirt or see-through black RAVEN + ROSE Tee shirt.
2) Red Lipstick – It’s a sure way to hide my ‘I never sleep, I’m a business owner and modern mother’ under-eye bags!
How do you keep the inspirations flowing for your work here in Hong Kong?
I collaborate. I constantly do what you call ‘test-shoots’ (fashion photoshoots that are done on a pro-bono basis). I work with incredible photographers, beautifully talented makeup artists and totally in-tune models, all who bring so much artistic insight to shoots, and this is what inspires me. Other peoples’ talents, especially if they are more grande than my own, are divine to be around. I always seek to surround myself with people who are generous creatively.
What needs to happen for you to be able to say “I’ve made it”?
I’m a big believer in achievable goals – I constantly up-date my list, aim high, achieve and aim high again. I’ve made it already and that’s fuel to do it all over again, but just with something even more wonderfully outlandish.
To wrap it up, what can we look forward to from you this year?
A number of edgy ‘Artist-Takeovers’ on the RAVEN + ROSE Website, a special edition range mid-seasons and a global launch of the brand… I’ll say now that Hong Kong is an incredible base, but this brand is going world-wide! And if I have it my way – the expansion of the Smith Family!!
Photos by Home Kong