In a time when the world is scrambling to pull itself together in the face of an uncertain future, jewelry designer Angel Pai is working to create a social impact in the fashion industry. In Fashion Mingle’s “Pivoting Your Fashion Career to Create Social Impact” Mingle Mastermind session, the panelists talk with Pai (who is also a successful model, actress, television host, and humanitarian) about her experiences in the fashion industry and beyond.
As a young Chinese immigrant, Pai was instilled with the values of hard work from an early age. Pai explained that when Pai was just 9, she was enlisted by her mother, who didn’t speak a word of English at the time, to help her start her own travel agency company. While Pai did much of the translating for her mother, the most valuable lessons came from observing her mother’s work ethic. Fortunately for Pai, this work ethic appears to be hereditary.
Finding Her Purpose: Angel Pai Follows Her Path to Create Social Impact in the Fashion Industry
For many years, Pai admitted she planned to become a doctor. Then during a chance encounter with a film crew while on vacation in Taiwan, Pai found her calling: acting. Pai studied medicine, acting, and business in college, but she thought of acting as an interest, not a career. However, after she was written into the film in Taiwan, something shifted. “I remember thinking after coming back to the United States from that vacation, that everything happened for a reason,” said Pai. “I have to pursue this [acting]. I may not know why, but I have to do this.”
Fairly quickly though, Pai began to understand her motivations: “It became clear to me that the work I wanted to do, humanitarian work, in medicine there was one-on-one healing, but the power of the media has the power to shift the world.” Pai realized that by pursuing a life in the media, she could connect with more people.
Right off the bat, Pai’s intention was to use the media to create social impact. “I realized I was to use media as a platform to inspire and elevate others,” said Pai. “I like to focus on good content, inspiring content.”
That would eventually lead her to work with NYC TV, and later NYC Vibe. While she was discovered for NYC TV during a modeling gig, the role of a television host seemed to be the perfect step for Pai, especially when the producers were more than willing to give her what she was looking for: to shoot humanitarian content in the realm of fashion and art. “I wanted to cover events where people were doing good and using their platform to serve others,” said Pai.
In addition to her roles as an actress and model, Pai is also a jewelry designer and founder of Illumin Designs. This creative bug began at an early age. In fact, Pai recalled a time when she was just 10, and at a school art show, a couple offered hundreds of dollars for a painting she had created. She refused to sell it, saying that her paintings and sculptures are just for her. “They are my stories to express,” she said.
While her paintings and sculptures remain a personal, private endeavor, Pai has been happy to share her jewelry making skills with the world. After becoming bored with the mass-produced jewelry on the market, Pai began making unique and extravagant pieces for herself, primarily out of gemstones and various metals. After enough people had stopped her on the street or in the subway, she decided to share her gift, and Illlumin Designs was born.
Pai began by selling on Instagram, then Etsy, and now has her own professional website that she designed herself. In addition to her website, Pai also sells her jewelry at art shows around the world. Her pieces are often custom, and can take anywhere from 3 to 7 days to create.
When Pai does sell a product, she admits that it is not about the money, but about the relationship created with the customer. “When I sell a piece, I’m not just there to sell. I’m there to honor our mutual appreciation of this beautiful crystal turned into jewelry” said Pai. When a customer falls in love with one of her pieces, Pai sees it as a love for art.
This path that Pai has taken, from aspiring doctor, to actress and model, to jewelry designer, to philanthropist, is one that she knows she is meant to be on. And just how is she so sure of her purpose? Everything stems from her overarching goal: humanitarianism. “My through line was this: my humanitarian drive. I had a mission, I had a purpose, and I focused on that. It was the goal, it was the path to walk,” said Pai.
When others ask for advice on finding their own purpose, she gives them largely the same advice she follows. “You have a path. Work on finding out what your purpose is in your life, and then it doesn’t matter how you get there,” said Pai. She also explained that much like her own journey, no path anyone takes will ever be linear. “From A to B the path you take is not a straight line, it is a complicated, wavy, circular journey.”
Today Pai continues her acting and model career, and is currently signed to True Model Management, owned by Fashion Mingle member and mentor Dale Noelle. When discussing her experience working with Pai, Noelle said, “She’s an entrepreneur and a citizen of the world and she strives for excellence so I really admire that. She helps make the world a better place.” That’s hard to argue with, especially considering Pai’s most recent endeavor: Keep Breathing, a free 3D design resource for medical professionals to use in creating necessary equipment to treat COVID-19, includes patterns for 3D printed intubation boxes and ventilator circuit splitters. Keep Breathing is completely volunteer and donation driven.
While life might still feel uncertain, there is one thing we can all count on: Angel Pai is going to continue to share her message, follow her path, and bring a positive social impact in the fashion industry.
Tips from a philanthropist: enjoy these words of wisdom from Angel Pai
1. Take that step. Pai admits that she learns best when she rolls her sleeves up and dives into a project.
“You learn by just doing it.”
2. Be resourceful. When starting a new endeavor, certain projects or jobs can be difficult without the right budget or knowledge. But that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t try. Pai’s advice:
“Think outside the box, use the tools you have on hand, and don’t rely on someone for something else.”
3.Find your purpose. No matter where your path may take you, Pai encourages you to follow it.
“What do you wish you were doing? What brings you joy? What brings a smile to your face? Find it and pursue it one step at a time”
4.Take Responsibility. Own up to your actions and your responses to the negative things in your life.
“The only thing stopping us is ourselves. You’re the only person responsible for your own actions. It’s easy for us to play the blame game, to be in the victim position but when looking back on a difficult situation, what did you do? You have a stance to take. I always say there’s the stance of the victim, and the stance of the empowered. What was your stance?”
5.Set goals, stay organized, prioritize. This can apply to nearly any endeavor you take on in life. It all comes down to your desired outcome, your desired brand.
“Set up a clear brand in the beginning. Everything subsequently revolves around this desired image.”
- Fashion Week During a Pandemic: Pulling off the 2020 Times Square Fashion Week - September 22, 2020
- Joanna Faith Williams: Finding Success in the Fashion Industry from the Ground Up - September 18, 2020
- Picture Perfect: Best Practices for Creating Content with a Fashion Photographer - September 18, 2020
- Demanding and Creating Change: A Hard Look at Diversity in the Modeling Industry - September 18, 2020
- Tips for Creating an E-Commerce Presence to Drive Your Direct-to-Consumer Business - August 24, 2020