Jeanette Lai Thomas
Brooklyn, NY
Photography - Carmen Chan

Having lived all over the world, Jeanette Lai Thomas, designer of Moratorium, is a New Yorker at heart. If you don't spot her wearing boots and riding her motorcycle through the city, she's likely at her studio crafting pieces inspired by geometry in the world around her. Take a look at her space in Williamsburg and say hi to Baron!

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Jeanette Lai Thomas

Tell us a little bit about yourself

Born in Singapore, raised in Hong Kong, moved to America when I was 16. I’ve spent the last five years moving due to my husband’s job: NY to HK, to Portland Oregon, to Amsterdam, to London and now back to NY.
Despite having lived in so many cities, I’ve always thought of New York as my home. I love feeling like I’ve grown up here – from clubbing at Twilo and Tunnel in the late 90′s, to landing my first job out of college, and now living again in New York—married and with a dog and with my own business. Riding my motorcycle through the city I always think to myself I have experienced this street by foot, bicycle, car and now on moto.


How’d you develop your personal style? How has your style changed over the years?

I’ve always been a tom boy – always will be. Even when I wear something a little more girlie, I’ll wear something masculine to offset it—whether it be combat boots, a leather jacket or jewelry. I have far too many boots—all types of boots. I can’t live without boots. I often find myself shopping in the men’s departments with my husband. I do still buy girlie and feminine pieces but its fair to say in my wardrobe you’ll mostly find things that you can wear while riding a motorbike into the city or working at my bench…Utilitarian and practical—in a New York style, of course…


Latest inspiration?

Constant inspirations: patterns, symmetries/asymmetries, geometric shapes, fractals.
Irridescent stuff. I just bought a new Comme des Garçons pouch in the special Christmas jewel tone. I also bought a wallet from Patron of the New with this amazing orange, green yellow shine.
I’ve always been fascinated by men’s style in London. Not the average guy on the street but the small group of men that know how to mix a little bit of punk and a little bit of sportswear with tailoring. They’re not afraid of taking risks and are very inspiring to me because of this.


Favorite stores/brands/companies?

INatalia Brilli and Lara Bohinc for accessories. I just visited the Gareth Pugh store in Hong Kong and it’s such an amazing store. Of course his clothing is stunning-—didn’t buy anything [this time] but was just happy to touch the pieces. Even the fitting room was amazing. Floor to ceiling leather padding done in his signature geometric pattern.
I must have looked through Albertus Seba’s Cabinet of Natural Curiosities 100 times and the illustrations never cease to amaze me. A definite source of creative inspiration to me.


What else do you enjoy besides fashion?

Right now, almost every waking hour is spent working on launching my line. I have a clear vision of what I want it to be and how I’ll make it happen, but without all the external resources I’d love to leverage I find myself doing almost everything. While it’s tiring and often very frustrating, I can see where its going to take my and thats exciting.
When my husband makes me take some time off, we really enjoy spending time with our dog Baron [a Boerboel / South African Mastiff]—exploring the woods, swimming at our secret spot on the Delaware Water Gap river or walking in Central Park. I ride my motorcycle in the summer, snowboard in the winter, and once a year we go scuba diving.
I’ve always taken a lot of pictures and find much of my inspiration for Moratorium from the subjects I photograph such as lines, forms, patterns, and structures—both man-made and natural. I always look to architecture images for inspiration. And because of my work I also spend a lot of time in hardware and home improvement stores.


Most challenging/rewarding experience in life so far?

Most challenging experience were all the moves that we did in the last few years, which in a bizarre way also was the most rewarding. Moratorium came about because of these moves.
I’ve always loved jewelry so when I found myself first in Amsterdam I decided to take a few silversmithing classes. There wasn’t a master plan at that time, but I found myself spending more and more time at the studio working, or at home designing. By the time we moved to London, I was making custom order for friends who’d seen me wearing my pieces and this just escalated over the following 12 months until I admitted my hobby was no more just a hobby. By the time we moved back to New York, I’d decided I was going to launch the line and its been a crazy ride since…


What are your next steps?

I’m excited to sell Moratorium to a few leading retailers around the world.  I’m having to stay very focused because there is a lot of interest to sell my line, but as you only get one launch, I want to do it my way.  Moratorium is very personal to me and whenever I do anything it will always be on my terms.


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