Jeanette Lai Thomas, Designer, Moratorium


“Originally, I’m from Hong Kong. I moved to the States when I was 16, and I've lived in New York, Connecticut, Amsterdam, London... I picked up silversmithing when I was living in Amsterdam. I just fell in love with it. I worked from home, buying more and more tools until it just kind of took off. Now, my jewelry line is called Moratorium, and I sell through Opening Ceremony and Occulter.

I still make a lot of pieces by hand. I think my point of difference is that my entire line is made with precious metals. I’ve been asked to work in brass so that I can lower my price point, but I just don’t want to. I think jewelry should always be precious. Every piece is individually polished and soldered together, and then polished together as a whole—it takes days. I want to make things that, when my customer puts on in five years, are just as relevant—you’ll hold onto it because it’s sterling silver or gold, and it’s worth something.

Because I work with my hands, my hands are a nightmare. As you can see, I never even bother to manicure them. I’ll do my nails maybe three times a year because there’s just no point. Polish never lasts more than a few hours. And my hands are horrifyingly dry—I mean, I use hand cream all the time, and sometimes, I’ll even put olive oil on them and stick them in plastic gloves from the 99-cent store. But there’s really nothing I can do about it.

In general, my skin is very dry and sensitive, so I can’t use really perfumed stuff. I have to be careful of a lot of things, because I’ll break out in spots. In the morning, I just wash my face with water; I don’t need soaps. During the night, your skin replenishes itself, and I don’t want to wash all that stuff off. But, at night, I use VMV Hypoallergenics’ Face Wash.

To moisturize, I love La Mer because it's a really thick cream and so hydrating. I’ve been using it for so long. And I really like VMV Hypoallergenics’ Re-Everything Eye Serum, which you can also use on other thin-skin areas. It kind of smells funny, but it’s non-perfumed. I actually went for a facial at VMV Hypoallergenics' spa on Crosby; it’s amazing, and their products are gentle. If I have random dry patches, I use the Boo-Boo Balm from VMV and the Know It Oil, which is pure coconut oil. On my body, I just use regular Lubriderm or something else not-too-crazy.

Makeup-wise, for me, it’s about concealer, eyeliner, mascara. I don’t sleep more than six hours a night, because I'm working late, so I have dark under-eye circles. I can’t live without concealer—BareMinerals Correcting Concealer. I hate using foundation, because I hate the caked-on feeling of it on my face. But for photos, I have to use it sometimes, and the BareMinerals powder foundation doesn’t feel like a foundation. I don’t have to do it on my whole face, instead I can put some concealer under my eyes and put a little bit of the foundation powder on with a brush, and it feels like I’m not wearing anything.

Right now, for eyeliner, I’m using Make Up For Ever Aqua Cream. It’s a matte black, which I like and I use a brush to paint it on. If I don’t do eyeliner, I at least use some mascara. I’m using Tarte at the moment—I was using Dior, but it was irritating my eyes a lot. I have really sensitive everything.

I like lipstick, but it’s so high-maintenance. I wear it when I go out, either a nude-ish color or a really deep wine color. For the nude, I have a mix. If I go really pale, I use the Creamsheen in Restrict from the Gareth Pugh for MAC collection—it’s really, deathly nude, and very dramatic. I’ll use that over either another nude matte MAC, or a Shu Uemura lipstick. Otherwise, Givenchy Rouge Interdit Satin Lipstick in #53 Rouge Celeste and Chanel Rouge Allure in Maniac #147 are my dark picks.

My hair is tough. It’s really fine, but somehow, it always works itself into really serious knots. When I used to dye it, it was more manageable, because it was ‘treated.’ Now that I don’t dye it, it always knots up, and regular conditioner doesn’t get my knots out! So I have to do a Kérastase hair mask once a week. I love Kérastase—all of their products are pretty great. I’m not very good with hair, so I keep it very low-maintenance, easy. Sometimes, I’ll even get my hair tie caught in there, and Gavin has to cut it out of my hair; I’m just really bad at all of it. I don’t know how to braid or anything.

I’ve had my hair cut like this—sort of asymmetrical—for the last few weeks. I was just like, ‘I don’t know if I can do it, but fuck it. It’s just hair. It’ll grow back.’ That’s my theory with hair. I’m really adventurous because it’s just hair. It’ll grow back. Last year, I had full blond hair, and I had this ombré thing before that. The blond was hard to maintain, because I’m not good at the whole ‘sit down, do my nails, go to the salon’ thing. Having to get my roots done, which is basically three hours wasted, was just really hard. Gavin liked it. I don’t know if I liked it.

For scents, I wear Tom Ford Black Orchid perfume, or sometimes when I just want to change it up, I love Sud Pacifique Comptoir Paris, which makes me think of summer. I love that smell. With candles, I especially like musky, powdery smells—not sweet—like Le Labo Santal 26.

In general, I believe if your system’s good, your skin’s going to be good. For a while, I was doing acupuncture on a weekly basis. I don’t usually drink cold water because cold water is a shock to your system, and when you shock your system, things tend to go out of balance. The Chinese also eat a pretty balanced diet—fish, vegetables, meat—which I think also helps with your skin. [My husband] Gavin and I drink a lot of tea, like Black Rose tea, in the house. It’s a good detox, you know? I just got back from Hong Kong and we bought so many teas. Gavin is super into teas.

And then there are my tattoos, which I consider ‘accessories.’ They’re fun. My mom’s given up on the whole thing. I’m thirty something. What can she do?”

—as told to ITG

Jeanette Lai Thomas photographed by Emily Weiss in Brooklyn, New York on December 19th, 2012.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Josef Šlaich

    She has amazing haircut and style! Love this post.

  • Kristina

    Gorgeous photos, amazing space! Thanks for sharing

  • MsDenbi

    I love her house and her tea collection! She seems really cool.

  • Celeste


  • Komal

    I love profiles like this. I just read this awesome one with Lisa Ray - - I love how it makes you feel like they're talking to you, or like you sat in on the conversation.

  • Yolanda

    Her home is beautiful! I would love to know more about that black rose tea. It sounds so delicious.

  • sarah beth

    Everyone you interview has such an interesting backstory, it's pretty inspirational! xx

  • Nomadic D.

    Love her look, love her hair. Funny, I was just talking about this:

    Now I have even more motivation to get out there and get someone to shave some of my locks off!

  • lula

    love this and her and yay diversity

  • therealblonde

    I saw the tattoo on her right arm, and immediately thought it was by tattoo artist Angelique Houtkamp, from Salon Serpent in Amsterdam. And then I read Jeannette has lived in Amsterdam, so it must be her! Also the picture on the wall in photo #7 seems to be by Angelique.

  • Restless Blonde

    I like her style, so original and consistent.

  • Hanna

    Loved this! She seems so down-to-earth cool!

  • Lana

    Love her tattoos! So fabulous!

  • J. W.

    There is a photo of some dr. hauschka products, but she doesn't comment on them. why?

    • taf

      they're sample-sized and look barely used

  • bryn_b

    She has amazing style! Thanks for this post.

  • Emma Hager

    I love her philosophy on hair. I think so many women see hair as a sort of security blanket -- which is fine -- but then we start to lose sight of all the fun we could have with our locks. "Fuck it. It's just hair. It'll grow back" <--- rules to live by.

  • Genevieve

    She's so gorgeous. Really enjoyed this one!

  • LI

    Wow amazing women and she has a great house !! Love her attitude about hair and health.

  • mlle p

    Cool girl and great apartment. Love the flapper-looking girl tattoo.

  • Amanda

    I reeeeeeally need to know where her shirt is from. I hope it's not Givenchy.

    • Denise Lai

      It's an exclusive Givenchy for Lane Crawford (Hong Kong) shirt.

      • Amanda

        Ha I figured it was Givenchy! Thanks :(

  • belle

    What a girl.

  • francesca

    oo, love this. Did you see the hair at Dior this morning? All dewy petals slicked on a wet black branch. Perfection.

  • Olga

    This is actually one of the best Top Shelves ever! Sometimes I am baffled how many products these women use - and she is very amount-wise about it. Also, I love her approach towards tea and body self-regulating skills. +100!

  • missie

    I think drinking too much tea isn't a good idea. Each kind of tea dries out your body. The Chinese say the best way is just drinking hot water, with no sugar honey etc. My mum spent part of her life in Beijing and she's also a doctor. I remember me being almost addicted to tea( living in Eastern Europe) and she used to tell me that all the time :)

  • pemora

    i once ordered a ring from her and she was SO NICE. she emailed me, concerned about sizing and wanted to make sure she got it just right. jeanette is awesome and her jewelry is worth every penny.

  • Andi Bakos

    Love her! Talented, gorgeous and a total badass.

  • Mack

    She's kickass and has a love for tattoos like me. Love the jewelry too.

  • Belle

    I'm allergic to Dior mascara as well, which is a shame because I love them. I just tried Tarte, and had an allergic reaction. Damn sensitive everything!

  • Jessie

    love her look. she's such a cool girl.

  • Sylvie

    I don't know where you find such ppl, ITG, but I sure wish they were my friends. Her cut is insanely cool. Also must comment on the Dr. H products; swear by them.

  • Neelam

    great post...i was wondering if its possible to do a top shelf with Pat McGrath??

  • AK

    Okay- I am going to sound like a total nerd here, but I don't care. Her tea we know what kind of label maker creates labels like this? I have been trying to figure out an interesting way to store and label my teas, this just might be the ticket!

    • cyndee

      i think they are just called label maker, you can probably find them in your local stationery store/online.

  • Crotchless Maxipad

    Why, why must you use La Mer ?

  • Rachael

    it's nice to see an interview with a woman who has sensitive skin! it's hard to find a range of products suitable if your skin is easily dehydrated, irritated, broken-out etc. and you can't just slap on the new armani foundation and wash it off with soap or whatever


VMV Hypoallergenics
VMV Hypoallergenics Spring Cleaning Purifying Facial Wash for Oily Skin
La Mer
Creme de la Mer
VMV Hypoallergenics
VMV HYPOALLERGENICS Grandma Minnie's The Big Brave Boo-Boo Balm
VMV Hypoallergenics
VMV Hypoallergenics Know-It-Oil
bareMinerals SPF 20 Correcting Concealer
bareMinerals Original Foundation
MAKE UP FOR EVER Aqua Black Waterproof Cream Eye Shadow
Tarte Lights Camera Lashes Lights Camera Lashes
Givenchy Rouge Interdit Satin Lipstick
L'Oreal Kerastase Nutritive Oleo Relax Smoothing Masque
Le Labo
Santal 26 Candle
Tom Ford
Tom Ford Black Orchid Eau De Parfum