Glamouria - Emma Trask, Founder of The Chrysalis Lab: "Bring Your Unique Talent, It Will Make You Shine." By Hayat Ammouri

Emma Trask, Founder of The Chrysalis Lab: "Bring Your Unique Talent, It Will Make You Shine."
October 26, 2023
Emma Trask- Founder of The Chrysalis Lab

From watching Melrose Place in her hometown in New Zealand, to subconsciously moving to L.A. and styling the cast of the CW Network’s relaunch of the hit series Melrose Place  (where she was the only person on the team who had watched the original series), and winning a Hollywood Style Award in 2009 for her costume designs for the show…  Emma Trask is here to tell us about her journey from freelance fashion stylist to entrepreneur, as the founder of The Chrysalis Lab -a unique art studio-meets-retail space that strives to offer limited edition designs and personalised collaborations.


Emma, you are the Founder of The Chrysalis Lab. Can you tell me what Chrysalis is and what does it stand for?

Chrysalis means cocoon in Greek; it’s the principal of the transformation of garments, of one’s self by clothing. I have a whole connection to Greece and I didn’t realise it was a Greek word.


You got the idea for your business during covid, but how did you get the courage to pursue it, especially during the pandemic?

I lead a busy styling career, but during the pandemic I had 2 or 3 months totally free. I was thinking about what I wanted to do. For many years, I wanted to set my own brand. I think what put me off is that I worked a lot with young designers and I saw their struggle. I didn’t want to try to fit into a mould, and I didn’t like the production side of the business. I also wasn’t aware of the environmental side effect of the fashion industry. During the pandemic, we were looking at everything with a new eye, asking ourselves what are we doing to the planet? Then the idea of masks came around. I thought it was an interesting design. I am actually proud of it. I did masks in the shape of butterflies; they were organic, up cycled, and made by using t-shirts or even old clothes. I made limited edition masks. I was picked up by Revolve. I did not like the wholesale side of the business nor the manufacturing side. It didn’t feel good to my soul. This experience showed me what I want and I don’t want to do. I also realised that I can make anything from used clothes and this is how the idea  of Chrysalis came out.


Are you more attracted to the creative side of fashion?

I do, but I also like things to be unique. I don’t get the whole copycat thing. It has to be customised to you. This is how I see style and this is how I do my styling. Doing a  hundred of thousands items of one thing is not for me.  We are recognising now the power of “one of a kind” and the importance of having  and wanting something unique. I don’t want to mass produce.


Your idea for uniqueness fits The Chrysalis Lab perfectly. It’s exactly what you like, what you’re describing..

It is. This is why I came up with the name; Chrysalis is a transformation, a kind of an experiment. Putting clothes together and seeing what I can get out of it. I have done custom clothing for celebrities for many years, but it’s fun to watch a regular person to get into it, especially in America. People don’t think of doing something themselves; they just order what they want and it will come overnight. I had to re-process how they think: You can give me something from your closet  and I can change it..


Part of it is also maybe that they were not taught how to do things with their hands? The grandmas are not sitting next to children teaching them how to sew or knit or do something with their own hands?

I think so too. I feel here you’re pushed towards academics, but a craft is not pursued. Value is placed more on academics and not on skills. 


Tell me in your own words what the process is like for The Chrysalis Lab?

We changed it a little lately. We schedule a consultation where clients show me a piece of clothing they have, and I guide them and see how they want to change it and how involved they want to be. We can establish how far they want to go depending on their budget or on their goal. We send them a shipping label and they send us the piece. Once I receive it I send it to different artists depending on the kind of work needed then send it back to them and they love it!


Do you sense that they have anything in common?

It’s a small market, but each client is very different. I am always intrigued to see what they choose.  It’s also interesting what people bring. Some people for example want to keep their grandma’s coat because it’s sentimental, or a pair of jeans…Others want to go to a wedding for example and can not find the right gown..


I feel that lately all gowns were cut outs, and this fits only one body type.

Yes! At one point it was crazy. Gowns were all cut out. Carrie Underwood my client, has a great body but she didn’t like cut out.. We couldn’t find anything so we started getting them and filling them.


I saw that you have limited collections on the website, like the sleeping bag pants and the butterfly blankets..

After doing masks, I wanted to do small things. I love comfy sleeping bags, so I got my hands on vintage ones. We worked them. I was doing one for a client, and then we did more. As for the blankets, living in Malibu I didn’t want to wear a coat so I would always grab a throw, then we added the butterflies and added sparkly fabric. I do mini collections, sweatshirts, and I will probably keep on doing this.


Do you have any plans for your lab?

I am loving it, and it’s evolving. I launched my Malibu Atelier and I got a lot of support.… Now I am in 2 stores in NY, and on one more international fashion platform. I want to spread the word and spread my brand. I want to take it international.  Go global, do pop ups… I want to set it up so people know I am coming and they can come and bring their pieces.


Any vintage places you recommend? 

I love vintage. There is a big market for it now. I always shopped vintage but it’s a risk because you can’t return it; once you buy it you have to keep it. Sometimes I would transform it because I can’t return it. The Real Real is a big company and they let you try things on. If you want more curated pieces you can go to Pikwick. There is also Current Affair and Hidden Treasure. There are vintage shops hidden everywhere. I am very driven by vintage.


As an Entrepreneur…

As an entrepreneur, It’s important to…. 

It's important to have a unique offering! It will give you passion, drive and success. Bring your unique talent, it will make you shine.


What keeps you going?

Being creative and being inspired by nature keep me going, the beauty in nature. I use that to feed my design and creativity, but I also think passion too. I really get a lot of joy when I create something for someone and I collaborate with them and I see them wear it and they tell me they got so many compliments on their outfit. That never gets old to me. Celebrities like Carrie are great, but also if I help someone with a piece or sold someone something and they tell me they have never been stopped this many times- that to me is when I have done my job well, and I tend to get that response a lot. It fuels me to keep doing what I am doing.


What are the obstacles that face you as an entrepreneur?

I wouldn’t call them obstacles, I would say challenges. The whole digital marketing system is not set up for “one of a kind piece” businesses. That’s a challenge. The digital system needs to change. When I had my website I wanted to see how to create a system and help people to send things to me, I couldn’t find anything that was already there. Then when I joined Canvas, they told me that The North Face had a program where you send your old pieces, and I think Patagonia does something individual too whether to re-use or have customers customising their pieces. We did a lot of research and we didn’t find much.  The market is not there yet. Selling one of a kind pieces, or even selling art digitally has been a challenge. It’s a system that we have to try to navigate. Nike did this many years ago, and Converse too. They would do pop ups. It was a thing and it got squashed. We need it to be digitally supported again. We can re-use, we don’t have to replace, replace, replace…


What would you tell your younger self?

I like doing interviews because you get to reflect and think about things. I honestly feel it’s kind of the reverse for me. I think I should remind myself of how I was when I was my younger self. Life is really draining and you get a lot from what’s around you. When I was younger a huge part of how I became a designer and a creative is because I thought everything is possible. No one was telling me it wasn’t. People I had around me like my mom’s best friend who was an artist, allowed me to think  that everything is possible design wise. I would tell her I want to do this and this and she would just do it. She gave me the tool, that energy!  Let’s do it. Anything is possible. Even now that I am older, I say let’s do it like that and people who work with me could say no you can’t do it like that, and I would say we are doing it like that… So even now, the world is my oyster. Coming from a small country, we were not aware of the rest of the world. I have to remind myself of my old energy, that anything is possible. I  was lucky to have this attitude and and not have it tainted. Especially as women, we’re completely bombarded with different things every moment. When we were younger, being in New Zealand kind of allowed me to flower and blossom. 


The Chrysalis Lab is a unique art studio-meets-retail space that strives to offer limited edition designs and personalised collaborations, catering to eco-conscious individuals who yearn for groundbreaking and exclusive designs that transcend mainstream fashion trends, all while honouring the environment.

EMMA TRASK is a prominent fashion stylist whose multi-faceted career has developed through collaborations with many top directors, photographers, and designers from the fashion, beauty, and entertainment industries. Originally from New Zealand, Emma has worked in the United States for over 18 years. Upon moving to New York City her unique sense of style led her to begin a career working for international fashion magazines and styling shows at New York Fashion Week. In 2002 Emma relocated to Los Angeles and quickly developed a name for herself as a top celebrity stylist. Her resume includes working with many of the most influential stars in entertainment- Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Christian Bale, Jared Leto, Cameron Diaz, Kiera Knightly, Scarlett Johansson, Eva Longoria, Olivia Wilde, Kristen Stewart, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, and Carrie Underwood among others. 

Emma has a business degree in marketing, which coupled with her fashion and celebrity styling expertise consistently makes her first choice for advertising clients including Almay, Ulta Beauty, OPI, Smashbox Cosmetics, SBE Entertainment, The Cosmopolitan Hotel, Vitamin Water, E! Entertainment Television, and The CW Network. Emma’s high profile advertising campaigns for America’s Next Top Model, Gossip Girl, and Vampire Diaries for longtime client The CW Network led to costume designing for television shows. Emma received a Hollywood Style Award for her costume designs for The CW Network’s relaunch of the hit series Melrose Place.

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