Student Spotlight: MODA9 with Matt Li

Matt Li is a second year JD student at Melbourne Law School. Matthew and Leah from FAME sat down with him, to discuss his student led start-up and online fashion publication MODA9 and his passion for creative expression and entrepreneurship.

Tell us about yourself and your project MODA9!

I’m from Hong Kong originally, I came to Australia in year nine and just recently received my citizenship! I’m a second year JD student who has a love for fashion. I am not sure what kind of law I am interested in, somewhere in media and start-up law would be fun! I always liked the idea of helping businesses build from the ground up.

MODA9 is an online fashion publication that talks on a wide range of topics. They change depending on what our team finds gripping that week. We also run events and support under-represented brands in the industry, through our ‘small business initiative’. It doesn’t really feel like a company at this stage. We don’t make a profit, we work with our peers, so I am very reluctant to call it anything bigger than a start-up.

What inspired you to start MODA9 while in law school and how has law school shaped MODA9?

I can’t claim all the credit, I do have an amazing team working with me! The reason MODA9 started was because I was doing media during my undergraduate degree, and I had a lot of friends who did other more “high-achieving” degrees who would joke about my lack of future job prospects. This pissed me off, so when I got into law school I didn’t want to let my media degree go to waste. I was going to find my own way to prove that my degree has value! Starting MODA9 in law school was mostly incidental. I was talking to some friends from Arts and Economics who were also interested in fashion so we decided to put our words into action, chipped in for a Squarespace account and have grown ever since.

In terms of how law school has shaped Moda9, because the content we learn in law school can be monotonous. There are many people wanting to step outside of the law school bubble and get into something creative. I have two amazing graphic designers who help edit our videos, create our social media, and they are both doing full time law school work! The law school environment has also inspired me to create more content that would gear towards fashion with law such as IP law or startup law.

Tell us about the logistics of setting up a fashion company and producing the enormous amount of content? How do you put out an article every two days?

First off, I am very fortunate to have such amazing friends/business partners in law school; Tommy Lee and Natalie Wang. They have been instrumental – Natalie is a social media influencer, so she helped me reach out to a lot of people. Even though MODA9 started with just a few friends who occasionally wrote an article, logistically we realised it wasn’t going to be sustainable.

I now try to attract people who produce content especially on social media. I would also offer people a portfolio to write for, to give them resume worthy experience. I recently had one writer leave us because she actually got an internship at a magazine! It’s bittersweet, but is a good example of the quality of people we have on board.

Fellow Melbourne Law School Student and Marketing Director Natalie Wang

I’m always looking for new writers as well! I have always liked people to contribute their point of view, there are only so many stories I can tell from my perspective.

How do you balance this business and the busy schedule of law school?
Definitely don’t feel bad about leaving your business alone, even for long periods of time. I see the fashion side of my work to be more of a creative outlet. If I’ve been reading about Hart’s Concept of Law, I’ll then write about James Charles and Jeffree Star, as a mental break and a way of doing something for myself.

Why is fashion important to you?
For me, fashion is about self-expression. The most important part of that expression is about wearing a story. When I wear a look or help someone pick-out an outfit I want them to inspire themselves. Fashion is a great way of self reflection. In 2020 I see fashion as a way of people being honest with their expression. Oh, and if your piece is a thrift that’s a silver lining.

Who is your biggest fashion inspiration?
I wouldn’t say I have a single, particular person; I prefer to be inspired by genres. I have forever had a soft spot for the ‘70s new wave french film. The revolutionary staples from that era are constantly repeating as minimal layers with a chic attitude. On attitude, I also love what came out of the ‘80s music videos. I adore the outrageous campy spirit of that era.

What is MODA9 doing to grow in the short term?

MODA9 became an affiliated student society, so we are excited to see what traction we can gain from that. As well as reaching out to broader student groups, we have been incredibly fortunate to be a part of a virtual campus project which provides affiliated student groups with faculty staff to promote their groups.

We have also just started a small business initiative to put a spotlight on up and coming businesses. We are looking to create a platform for people who are not necessarily represented in mainstream fashion media.

MODA9 Instagram @themoda9

What is your dream for the future of MODA9?

The dream of MODA9 is to grow the opportunities for others to express themselves. We are always looking for new people to contribute in any capacity; whether that is writing a piece, photographing or being inspired with a new form of publication. Definitely get in touch!

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