Whether designing spreadsheets or stylish, sustainable bags, Lisa Hu has always had an impeccable eye for design.
“I’ve always been creative; I mean, even though I did finance I made spreadsheets look really good,” laughs Hu.
While she used that attention to detail in her career in corporate finance, she felt called to create something of her own. While juggling travel for her day job, and class for Washington University’s MBA program, she couldn’t find the perfect bag to function well from the gym to a conference room to the airport – while still being stylish and professional.
So in October 2017, she ditched her day job to launch Lux & Nyx, a line of luxury handbags for high-achieving women, and its start was a smash. In 2019 Lux & Nyx bags were gifted to A-list nominees at the Screen Actors Guild Awards Ceremony in Beverly Hills, and Hu’s organization was not only the recipient of an Arch Grant, but also was accepted into the Saint Louis Fashion Fund’s fashion lab program, which combines professional and educational opportunities while promoting community, collaboration and connection in the fashion community.
“Receiving an Arch Grant was cool, and they provided incredible resources, too,” says Hu. “The Fashion Fund meanwhile definitely gave me confidence and legitimized me as a designer.”
A designer who has created everything from backpacks and wallets to crossbody bags and more from beautiful, yet sustainable, materials, like Freedom Fiber™ (a vegan microfiber) and upcycled leather. To craft upcycled leather, leather scraps and old leather goods are shredded and then formed into a new composite leather material. Thoughtful details are the bags’ signature, like the fan convertible crossbody’s built-in passport compartment and two straps inside to hold pens or lip products in place.
“I like creating something that’s different, but also simple — simple for a functional bag because functional doesn’t usually go with chic designs,” says Hu. “So I ask myself, ‘How do I hide all the functions behind something that looks a little different?’”
While Lux & Nyx had a great initial reception, the events of March 2020 and beyond were a huge blow for Hu.
“I had to scramble and pull all my inventory back [to St. Louis], I lost all my sales ambassadors [from 16 cities] because there were no events, and I really just hit rock bottom,” says Hu. “That’s when I started to realize what this journey was about. I really had to dig deep into: Is this what I want to do, is it worth it?”
Hu says around this time, “Marie Claire” published an article promoting her products, resulting in sales in Australia, the UK and Canada — something she took as a sign to keep striving, especially given that, according to Hu, as few as 7% of products marketed toward women are designed by women.
“Initially I wanted to prove to other people that I could do it, and then I just started to learn to do it for myself, to align with what’s really real and true to me,” says Hu. “I came to realize that the whole time what really drove me, even through corporate when I was working and growing my career, was that I’ve always wanted to either be supported as a woman or support other women.
“And when I really dug down deeper, it was because I wanted to be able to provide a place or a voice for those that are underrepresented. Because I know if you’re born in a culture where you’re second class in the first place, you feel like you have to prove something.”
Something Hu understands from firsthand experience.
“My parents brought me here when I was 6 years old,” says Hu. “We lived in Clayton in a one bedroom studio. It’s been an interesting journey for me to go from being in Asia and coming to the States, having absolutely nothing, being on food stamps and then getting scholarships, going to college, growing my career and then deciding to leave all that and start from scratch. Only in America, right?”
But it was going back to the beginning and breaking it down that made her realize her brand goes beyond the bags she takes great care in creating.
“My self-discovery, and why I started the company, made me realize I can utilize Lux & Nyx as a platform to inspire others,” says Hu. “To encourage them to really be themselves and really just shine.
“You don’t need someone to tell you that you can do something. You just really need to want to do something, believe in it and pave the way for yourself.”
And, of course, from right here in St. Louis.
“Growing up I wanted to go to other cities because I thought, ‘Oh, St. Louis is so boring,’” says Hu. “I went from wanting to run away from St. Louis to realizing how amazing it is. Just open up your eyes to all the different people — everyone’s so willing to talk to you, willing to be supportive and super friendly. I can’t imagine starting my business anywhere else.”
Join the Story
- Learn more about Lux & Nyx.
- Shop other women-owned brands at Procure at City Foundry STL.
- Check out other St. Louis-based small fashion businesses and brands on the Saint Louis Fashion Fund’s website.