Tell us a little about Mary Lai: I’m obsessed with art, and good design makes my heart skip a beat.  My husband and my two snorkies Boh Boh and Bang Bang make me smile.  I like to stay positive, live life to the max and believe in following your dreams.

You're handbags are to die for! How did MARYLAI NEW YORK handbags come about?:

Thank you!  For the past 10 years after Art School I have been designing in the New York Fashion Industry for many coveted labels.  At the end of 2012 I finally took that leap to start my own handbag collection.  Designing from my own point of view has always been on the back of my mind and I felt the timing was right to finally give it a try.

What does an average day of an up and coming handbag designer consist of?:

Everyday seems to be different. But I usually start the morning working from home going over emails, making calls, sketching & designing etc… Late afternoon I usually go into the sample room and work with my Sample Maker or go to any appointments with buyers, stores, etc…As an independent designer and brand I have to wear many hats and play different roles to make sure everything is rolling smoothly.

Congratulations on being awarded The Best Handmade handbags in INSTYLE's 2013 Independent Handbag Designer Awards. What does having that kind of recognition, in such a short amount of time, mean to you?:

Winning this award meant so much to me.  It really helped put my brand on the map and opened doors for new opportunities.  Over 1,000 international applicants apply so to be chosen as a winner helped give my brand momentum.

How would you say Fashion PR Con has help aide you and your handbag business?:

People ask me who my PR person is quite often. I actually do not have one.  When I first launched the brand I knew I had to learn how to do PR because I had a limited budget.  Fashion PR Con was so helpful teaching me how to pitch and do DIY-PR.  Hopefully, one day I can hire a full time PR person but till then I am grateful to have taking this course to do it myself.

What was your Fashion PR Con experience like?:

My experience was excellent.  I met many wonderful people, learned so many valuable things and I would highly recommend this to any person trying to get into the PR industry or doing their own PR like myself.

What was your favorite part of attending Fashion PR Con?:

My favorite part was after the first day I talked to Danika about doing a giveaway with a Marylai handbag for the next day and she was totally open to it.  She even came up with a great competition for all the students to create a (vine) video and the most creative video post won a bag.  It was great seeing all the videos and I was thrilled to be able to share my handbag collection with Fashion PR Con.

What advice do you have for future Fashion PR Con students?:

Be open.  Be a sponge and soak it all in – it is an intense workshop but you come out with priceless knowledge.  Make friends with the people in your class – they may even be the stylist for your next photo shoot (happened for me).  But overall, my advice would be to have fun :)

What’s next for Mary Lai?:

Continue creating bags that I love and hope the world will love it as well.