If you are interested in women’s fashion in RL, you might have noticed that most of the successful designers are male. Don’t get me wrong; there are female successes – Donna Karen, Coco Chanel, Nina Ricci. But, there is no doubt that the field is dominated by male designers. What fascinates me is that in SL that trend does not exist. In fact, it is the opposite trend that exists: the majority of female fashion comes from female designers. I am not sure why this is the case, though I have some theories about it, and would very much like to hear your thoughts, as well.
Before I get too far into this tangent as is my habit, let me get back to the main topic, which is Mohna Lisa Couture. I recently purchased Erotica Black Cat, and had a great time photographing it from various angles (you can see the great lines on the back of the dress in this example). I loved the opening in the back and the graceful lines. And, as you have noticed, once in awhile I put something on and think to myself “I really want to talk to the person who made this.” Erotica was one of those dresses, and that is when it dawned on me that not only do I always find MLC’s fashion tasteful, sexy, and well-made, but that I have never interviewed a male fashion designer. Unusual, wouldn’t you say? So, I picked up the virtual phone and gave Mohna Lisa a buzz. He could not have been more gracious, and we ended up meeting up at his store, where he also introduced me to the store manager, Starlite. We walked around the store and chatted. You will love visiting the store – it has high ceilings, is roomy & perfect for shopping.
Leda Carter: It is a pleasure to meet you, Mohna. I have to start by asking you whether what you do in RL is in any way related to fashion. Your designs are so sensual and well-executed.
Mohna Lisa: Other than the fact I had to maintain a highly groomed appearance, I would have to say there is not a lot shared between RL career and designing in SL, other than my exposure to different cultures. I have been in the auto industry all my life, and have worked for major auto manufacturers in different roles, from Vehicle Design, Engineering and Manufacturing, to Vehicle Development Management, to Director of Sales and Marketing. The fact that, due to my career, I have lived in many countries (from Europe to Asia) and have seen many cross cultural fashion styles, influences my designs and inspirations.
Leda: So, what brought you to SL?
Mohna: As I mentioned, I was an Executive in a large multinational company, working in Asia Pacific. Due to extensive international travel, about 5.5 years ago, I started hitting SL as a way of entertaining myself during extensive periods of insomnia due to jet lag, and, of course, RL work stress. About 2 years ago, in my 40′s, I took an early retirement package, and switched to part time contract work. It enabled me to focus and dedicate more of my time in world to MLC.
Leda: Were you interested in fashion when you started your Second Life?
Mohna: Personally, I have been interested in fashion for a long time. With my RL job, it was essential to maintain a highly groomed appearance. Moreover, I was fortunate that with my travels I could shop in different countries, and pick out suits in the latest fashion. Also, I could have them tailor-made during my visits in Asia.
I began to gravitate towards women’s fashion and to evolve as a designer in SL for simple and selfish reasons. At the time, I simply wanted to get women out of those bell shaped gowns into more alluring, sensual but elegant, formal wear. Yeap, as a bloke, it was really about seeing more cleavage and legs, with style and elegance.
click on any picture to see it larger
Leda: Did you start by designing for a friend/lover/etc, or did you start the process with having sales and marketing in mind?
Mohna: I started it with a lady friend of mine in RL. We were colleagues. She was the front person, hence the female name. But, she left and I become the front-avi. I did start designing with sensuality in mind, I guess. In the early days, I used to meet a few women on here as my alt. At that time, this was a hobby and not a business. I just wanted to see more sensual clothes out there on women. It was two things: the want to see single women, looking for love, in sexier sensual clothes, and it does make a person feel good about themselves.
That’s how it started, and then we progressed. She left, and I semi-retired & took it on as a business. I am serious about it now, as opposed to seeing it as only a hobby. Sales, marketing, and business come to me naturally, because of my RL background.
Here, we stop in front of one of my favorite dresses, Fallen Angel. You can see why it is a favorite of mine. As I mentioned to a friend, it practically spells my name. The lines in the front are just so so delicious.
Leda: I love this dress. I like that it has a vision, and is not just a copy of some trend.
Mohna: It is beautiful, and was inspired by an RL design. Now, I have to show you something. I have not released this yet. It is mesh and uses my new design process where I make the skin into the mesh. Then, there is a HUD where you can pick your skin color.
Mohna Lisa showed me Black Widow, which will, no doubt, dazzle you. The skin-tight dress has smooth, graceful, lines. It has a mixture of silky and sheer textures, and the sheer sections ends just in the right spot to leave enough to the imagination. Here is a picture of it, but I could not stop at one. Please see the full front here, and you can also get a better look at the glitter that covers the dress here.
Leda: Any tips or experiences you can share with other avatars who wish to upgrade their look?
Mohna: We help out our customers all the time with appearance and styling. I have a team of highly talented staff and models that are always helping our customers with any issues or questions. We enjoy doing that. Just come to the store to speak with any of the live models, or contact my Model Manager and Stylist to arrange for a one-on-one free consultation. All of this information is in my profile picks.
Leda: Did you already have the technical background needed in SL, or did you learn that on the job?
Mohna: All of it has been learned on the job. There are plenty of tutorials put out by members of the community, which can help anyone who wants to learn. They are easy to find in search and easy to follow. I learned PhotoShop in March, and was open in May/June. So, it took me 3-4 months.
Leda: That sounds as if it would take such a discipline to do. Or maybe it is the fear of failure that stops some people from trying.
Mohna: Yes. I set my sights on something, and I achieve it. That’s how I operate. I don’t stop until I do. I like challenges, and do not fear anything. Honestly, I really don’t. I am just a driven person, survive on challenges, achieve all that I start doing, and then move. Always needing more.
Leda: What facet of being a designer in SL have you found most challenging?
Mohna: For me, it is as simple as not realising some of my visions into implementation because of system constraints in SL. Many times, I have a great vision of how an outfit should look. But, because there are only so many things you can do with prims and sculpts and attachment points, and so on, I find that I need to change and/or adapt the design. I believe this challenge in not uncommon to all creators here.
Leda: Speaking of the system and its limitations, what are your thoughts about Mesh? I remember that when Flexi was introduced, it was revolutionary! I could not stop zooming in on myself when I walked to see my hair or my skirt move. I have not felt that personally or in the community regarding Mesh. Do you think that’s an accurate assessment?
Mohna: That’s the way it is headed. At the moment, customers are divided – those who don’t want to change their shapes hate it, and those who absolutely love the new and have full embraced it So, I do both to accommodate. My core product is gowns, so I use it. But it is limiting because of the trains. Mainly, Flexi is well liked with gowns, which is why I do both.
Leda: Do your designs reflect your personal taste, or are they more a reflection of what the SL community seeks?
Mohna: Both. My work can be described as classy, sensual formal wear that highlights a woman’s shape in an elegant way, or a man’s physique with a strong stylish formal look. It seems like my personal taste has been met with a popular and positive response from the SL community – both from men who like to see their ladies looking sensual and elegant, and from the women who enjoy the way my clothes compliment and enhance their form. Less is more with my designs, not fussy or busy, and no clutter with unnecessary sculpts.
My customers are the most rewarding aspect of designing. I have made a lot of long term friends from loyal customers. They inspire me and keep me motivated. To see these ladies looking beautiful, happy, and sending me “thankyous” when wearing a creation, which started out as a thought one night, is very fulfilling to me.
Leda: How about your avatar? Does it express any part of your RL?
Mohna: I have spent a long time to get my avatar looking like I do in RL. Everyone one does what they are comfortable with, whether it is looking the same, the opposite, a petite, or a furry. For me, I just feel comfortable in having Mohna look the same. Apart from my avatar’s splendid abs, which I have to sigh and say I no longer have, Mohna does look very similar to me in RL.
Leda: Tell us a little something about the person behind the avatar, your RL self.
Mohna: 6ft 3”, Australian Married Man, 48 years old. Black hair, grey eyes, business man who enjoys creativity, be it with creating high level strategies in RL or creating sexy gowns and great tuxes in SL.
Leda: Could you share with us some of your creative process?
Mohna: 1. can’t sleep (as usual), an insomnia sufferer; 2. Start thinking of some ideas because I can’t sleep; 3. Turn the ideas into visions and then get up during the night and sketch them down, because I can’t sleep; 4. Get onto it the next day tired after lack of sleep, get RL out of the way and start playing with vision concepts incuding texture, styling and prim work. This latter part usually takes the most time – sometimes days – because of SL constraints of what and how design/prim aspects work together, or textures and colors. Finally, the concept comes together and I am happy with the results fulfilling my vision and I make it for sale, OR the concept does not come together and does not meet my vision. So, I delete it and go back to step 2 and start over.
The key to my designing is that I like putting in a lot of detail, which means that the value for hours I spend on it is a great value for what I charge. Most important is the cuts I use. It is about using cuts that make the dresses look sexy, yet elegant and not trashy.
Leda: I agree, there is a fine line there. For example, the one-leg-out look is somewhat of a tired look in my opinion. I rarely wear it. Nevertheless, there are some designers who do it so tastefully, such as yourself, or Mami Jewel (Azul).
Mohna: When I started, there were not many who did this style. Now, it is flooded. That’s o reason why I like looking for new ideas, being at the forefront, just like my use of glitter.
One thing you will have to check out, if you have never explored far into the store, is the VIP room. This is where you find items and prices that are exclusively offered to members. For example, Seduction is offered to members at the VIP room at 90L. That’s an offer you cannot afford to miss.
Leda: Do you keep your RL and SL separate?
Mohna: Very Separate. They do not cross over at all. I keep my RL private from SL and my SL private from my RL. I just found that I enjoyed doing design in SL, from a creative aspect, to see something (almost) tangible come out of the hours you put in. It is not only relaxing, but it is rewarding. But, no one in RL knows I do this. I keep them separate.
Leda: How do you spend your time in SL, when not working? Would you say you have a good balance between business and pleasure in SL?
Mohna: I like to just relax with good music and good conversation, be it with my beautiful SL wife, in my great home on my sim, with friends, or talking while dancing with good music.
I ensure that I have a good balance. I have rules that I follow. One of them is keeping those two separate, and that works for me.
Leda: It was truly a pleasure to have met you, Mohna. Thank you for your time and for chatting with us.