The parade that is New York Fashion Week is a reliable opportunity for celebrity sightings. There are the starlets and music moguls in the front rows, along with social-savvy models and street-cast cameos on the runways. But at Creatures of Comfort's spring 2018 show this past September, the artist Maia Ruth Lee zoomed in on an elusive VIP barely visible in the wings: designer Jade Lai's infant son. "I see you Laz!" Lee posted, along with a hand-drawn yellow heart (herself a mother-to-be, she made her own surprise appearance on Eckhaus Latta's runway two days later). In the true form of a modern multitasker, it wasn't enough for Lai to produce a collection of breezy day dresses and eyelet blouses while running a cult-favorite boutiquedowntown. She did it while juggling a newborn.
Such grace under sleep deprivation is reason enough to inquire after the designer's wellness routine. Born in Hong Kong, with a move to the West Coast in her teenage years—first Seattle, then Los Angeles—Lai lives by a philosophy that emphasizes nature over aggressive intervention. In other words, imagine a cross between California health-food store, traditional Chinese medicine, and New York focus. "I always just feel like less is more," she says, acknowledging with gratitude that she had a "pretty easy pregnancy." She stretched out in regular vinyasa classes at Equinox and Yoga Works well into her eighth month; she put in studio time at Creatures until the nth hour. "I was working until Monday, went into labor Tuesday night, and had Laz on Wednesday morning," she says of her turnaround time in the hospital's birthing center. "I basically viewed my whole pregnancy as a very natural process. Your body is designed to do those kinds of things."
Of course, good self-care and good luck go hand in hand. Here, Lai shares her pre- and post-pregnancy essentials, from her go-to reflexology spa to the warming recipes that refueled her in the so-called fourth trimester. Not that everything has been easy. When baby Laz—short for Laz Tomi An Zucker, with nods to his Chinese-Jewish heritage—has trouble sleeping, there are bouts of foggy "mom brain," Lai admits.
Reflexology and Acupuncture
"My legs were very, very swollen during pregnancy, and [foot massage] actually helps with circulation and just moving the qi around. I always feel like reflexology works on me. I go to this place on Lafayette, called Yan Foot Spa. This one guy is really, really strong and can always tell me all my ailments, but he didn't want to induce my labor, so he basically refused to work on me while I was pregnant. A friend recommended a labor-induction acupuncturist Paul Kempisty, although I did not have to go that route. When I was living in L.A., I used to see an acupuncturist almost twice a week just for qi balancing, and I am definitely going to try to see my acupuncturist [here] again and get back to my routine."
"During pregnancy, there's a lot of pain in the pelvic area because your bones are expanding, so I went to see a chiropractor a lot when I was pregnant. There's something called the Webster method: When your baby's breech, you go to a chiropractor and they tap certain things, and it helps the baby turn to the right position. I started going at 32 weeks, and in a couple weeks he turned. Beth [Forgosh] is great; I need to go back to her for realignment after birth, but it is so true that there is suddenly no time when you are a mom!"
"I did try to observe the [so-called] confinement period for after birth because I was reading this book called [The First] Forty Days. A lot of times people focus on the child after childbirth—'Oh, the baby, the baby'—and they always neglect the mom. But if you nurture yourself within the 30 or 40 days after, which is the fourth trimester, [you'll have an easier recovery] and won't have so much ailment in old age. My mom came, which was super helpful. I practically didn't leave the house for the first three weeks. I basically didn't lift anything heavier than the baby, and I didn't walk more than two blocks at a time. That was really important, just to let my body heal itself."
Food as Rehabilitation
"The Chinese (or Asians) believe in consuming nourishing foods that are plain and light during [the] postnatal [period]. Nothing too spicy or cooling; I didn't eat anything that was cold for almost a month. My mom made me a lot of white-rice congee with fish—white rice is easier to digest than brown. There is also a tea with Chinese red dates and goji berry: Sprinkle in a few, and it warms and 'tones' the insides. I drank warm coconut milk. I also had a lot of bone broth from Brodo. Now we make bone broth at home all the time, using the leftover chicken carcass. Growing up in Hong Kong, it's basically part of what we drink every day, and it's such an easy way to get all the nourishment."
Natural Skin Care
"I tried to stay away from anything that was very chemical-y during pregnancy, so I used a lot of natural oils. For my body, I just use Bio-Oil. And we have the Odacité boosters [in the boutique]; I like those oils because you add them into your face cream. I also started using Biologique Recherche. If I use the ritual—the face wash, the P50 [toner], the serums, and the Vernix mask—my skin just looks so good."