Stephanie Chai: From Modelling to Founding Luxe Nomad

Model-turned-entrepreneur Stephanie Chai

​Former model Stephanie Chai, born in Malaysia and raised in New Zealand, is founder of The Luxe Nomad. She tells #legend about her thing for pretty dresses over handbags.

Which three websites do you visit most?

Daily Mail, BBC and Facebook – apart from The Luxe Nomad, of course.

What was the last music you downloaded?

I have Hold On by Amtrac and some classical music as well.

When you were young, what was the coolest fashion item you wanted to have?

Contact lenses. I had these glasses from the age of eight because I used to read in the dark. I was so vain and refused to wear them. So, at school, people would be like, “I said ‘hi’ to you but you didn’t say ‘hi’ back.” But it was because I couldn’t see them. Eventually I did get contact lenses, though I don’t need them now because I got my eyes lasered.

What is the coolest fashion item you wish you owned?

I don’t know. I never keep track of trends, but I do love dresses. I wear them pretty much every day. I would love to have a Marchesa dress though. I love pretty dresses. I am not a handbag girl.

Of the fashion capitals which is your favourite and why?

New York. London is a fantastic city as well but it is a little bit grey. New York is less grey and people are a bit more open, perhaps because it’s got so much diversity. I think New York is amazing.

Chai’s favourite city, New York (Credit: Corbis/ ImagineChina)

If you could time travel, where would you go to?

The future, I suppose. I don’t like living in the past. I would fast-forward 10 years and see what will be happening in my life then.

What has been your greatest achievement in the last 10 years?

I am not especially tall and when I got into modelling even my mother was like, “Are you sure you can be a model?” I shot two Olay campaigns in my early 20s. I used to always watch television and mimic the ads I saw, so it was pretty surreal when I became the girl in the ad. I still think it’s one of my best accomplishments. 

And, of course, there is The Luxe Nomad. I started it along with three other girls. We looked like such a weak team but we managed to beat out the other competitors who started at the same time we did. Despite not having a tonne of cash, we managed to bank on connections and simply just cold-calling and getting things done.

As a former model and a frequent traveller, what’s your beauty tip?

A good night’s sleep is important. Take care  of yourself. If you’re not 16, don’t go acting like you’re 16 and party every night.

A Marchesa look from the spring/summer 2016 collection

What is your fitness regime?

It’s all over the place. When I am in Malaysia, I have a personal trainer and tennis coach. If I am in Singapore, I do a lot of cycling and yoga. In Hong Kong, I do a lot of hiking.

How do you normally unwind?

I like to have a glass of wine with friends and watch mindless television and read the Daily Mail. Having a full-time job like I do now makes me appreciate the free time that I have now. When I was a model I had way too much free time.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Funny, I think, passionate and a dreamer.

Who is your legend?

My grandfathers. My mother is Italian and my Italian grandfather dedicated his life to what he believed in. He was an anti-Mussolini activist and spent his life standing up for what he believed in, and he’s in a couple history books, actually. My Chinese grandfather came from nothing and his parents couldn’t send him to university. He fulfilled his dream by working hard and sent seven of his children to university, including my auntie, which in the sixties was not common.

Who is your obsession?

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He’s a fantastic leader. Not everyone could have done what he’s done. He’s created such a diverse parliament, and he’s so handsome. He ticks all the boxes. He’s not just someone who talks well, but he gets stuff done. 

In this Story: #travel / #style