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Suitcase Series

Suitcase Series: Michelle Lai of Mischa in Hong Kong

Mischa, founded by Toronto-born Michelle Lai eight years ago, is leading the fashion scene in Hong Kong.

In 2004, she entered the handbag game with her line of hand-stitched clutches made from Japanese obis. She went on to establish her own brand in 2008. MISCHA embodies the personal style and sensibilities of its founder and creative director. Michelle has featured in Forbes as “one of Asia’s handbag brands to have successfully gone global.”

Michelle bridges the world of fashion and lifestyle with a hint of nostalgia, and is inspired by the intrepid spirit of women today. Ideal for the Citizen Femme traveller, Mischa is best known for its iconic hexagon print tote bags, becoming a style and travel essential for the global citizen.

Michelle has a long standing commitment to empowering women, through her work with The Women’s Foundation and charities supporting girls’ education.

What is the first trip you remember taking?

I grew up in Toronto, Canada but my parents are from Hong Kong. I remember one of the first trips I ever took was to visit our family in Hong Kong. It was such an exotic place with strange smells, people doing tai chi in the park and such dynamic energy.

If you could sit next to anyone – dead or alive – on a long-haul flight, who would it be?

That’s interesting. These days I really look forward to flights because I can tune out and go on a movie marathon. But if I had to chat with someone, it would be one of the female disrupters; Oprah Winfrey for her grace, wisdom and she seems like a fun lady to have a few glasses of wine with!  Another one would be Cleopatra, for her glamorous personality and political savviness in a patriarchy. 

How do you recover from jet lag?

I swear by melatonin, especially if I’m flying long haul and have to be ready to work. I can’t afford to have foggy brain. Flying to Europe is great, I love getting up in the early hours and catching up on emails, or getting extra time for morning coffees. There’s something magical about the early hours. Flying to the US is the worst, I remember the last time I arrived in Los Angeles and feeling delirious from the 15hour difference.

Your flight’s delayed an hour and your phone’s out of battery. How do you pass the time?

Well, usually I duck into a lounge which is always a lifesaver. Failing that, I’ve always got something to read, a good book or a magazine. I’m old fashioned and love to buy magazines when traveling.

Biggest lesson from your travels?

Always beware of your belongings. I had a terrible experience having my things stolen in Paris.

Do you travel for food, leisure, culture or something else?

Myself, and everyone in the team is a foodie, so food is top of the list And of course I publish a Foodie File from every city I visit. I love to explore the local culture, and then soak in the atmosphere and ease into the rhythm of wherever I am.

What’s on your travel playlist?

I’m afraid I’m very uncool when it comes to music. I rely on my friend’s music mixes. I like a combination of bossa nova, pop and house music.

Must-have travel picks?

Aesop Rind Body Balm – I love the smell and it keeps your skin nice and soft. John Masters Organics Lavender Hydrating Mist – to keep hydrated on the plane. My laptop – my Macbook is my life! My MISCHA Overnighter. My iPhone with all my music, camera and Social apps.

First thing that comes to your mind?

Hand-luggage essential?

My MISCHA Overnighter – I literally have not bought any handbags since I started my brand.

Packing: roll or fold?

Fold, and always pack wrinkle free.

Time killer on a long-haul flight?

I re-watch old favourites or go through new Movies!

On-flight tipple of choice?

A gin and tonic is always safe.

Bucket list top destination?


Best shopping gem found abroad?

Antique drawers I found in Japan

Beach or City?

That’s a very difficult question. I grew up a city girl and love my city comforts, on the condition I can escape to a nearby beach

Ultimate hideaway?

The Maldives

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