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NXTLVL Experience Design

Episode 58: Lisa Sun

Gravitas with Lisa Sun, CEO and Founder of Gravitas and author of “Gravitas: The 8 Strengths That Re-Define Confidence”





Lisa Sun is the founder and CEO of GRAVITAS, a company on a mission to catalyze confidence. GRAVITAS offers innovative size-inclusive apparel, styling solutions, and content designed to make over women from the inside out. In this episode Lisa Sun and host David Kepron talk about Lisa’s life as a daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, A McKinsey and Company Consultant, founder of a women’s apparel brand, being the “dress whisperer” and author of the successful book “Gravitas: The 8 Strengths That Re-Define Confidence.”


ABOUT Lisa Sun:

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To learn more about Lisa’s book:

Learn more about our forthcoming book, GRAVITAS: The 8 Strengths That Redefine Confidence

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Lisa Sun is the founder and CEO of GRAVITAS, a company on a mission to catalyze confidence.

GRAVITAS offers innovative size-inclusive apparel, styling solutions, and content designed to make over women from the inside out. Prior to founding GRAVITAS, Sun spent 11 years at McKinsey & Company, where she advised leading luxury fashion and beauty brands and retailers in the U.S., Asia, Europe, and Latin America on strategic and operational issues.

Her first collection was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, People, and the Todays how in the same month.Sun and GRAVITAS have been featured on CNN and in ForbesFast CompanyNew York magazine, ElleMarie ClaireInStyle, and more.

GRAVITAS includes among its activities a commitment to AAPI causes and New York City’s Garment District. Often called the “dress whisperer,” Lisa is also a highly sought-after public speaker who likes to impart her hard-won knowledge on gravitas and how to best harness it to other women.



Welcome to the NXTLVL Experience Design podcast.

These dynamic dialogues based on our acronym DATA – design, architecture, technology, and the arts crosses over disciplines but maintains a common thread of people who are passionate about the world we live in and human’s influence on it, the ways we craft the built environment to maximize human experience, increasing our understanding of human behavior and searching for the New Possible.

The NXTLVL Experience Design podcast is presented by VMSD.

VMSD is the publisher of VMSD magazine and brings us, in the brand experience world, the International Retail Design Conference. The IRDC is one of the best retail design conferences that there is bringing together the world of retailers, brands and experience placemakers every year for two days of engaging conversations and pushing the discourse forward on what makes retailing relevant.

You will find the archive of the NXTLVL Experience Design podcast on


Thanks also goes to Shop Association the only global retail trade association dedicated to elevating the in-store experience.

SHOP Association represents companies and affiliates from 25 countries and brings value to their members through research, networking, education, events and awards. Check then out on

In this episode I talk with Lisa Sun the Founder and CEO of the apparel brand Gravitas and the author of the recently published, runaway best seller titled – “Gravitas: The 8 Strengths That Redefine Confidence.”

But first a few thoughts.


In the spring of 2022, I was in New York for the annual Vision Monday Leadership Summit. This event was being called “Discover & Recalibrate! Trends, Ideas and Tactics for Confronting Radical Change.” This 13th Annual gatherings brought into sharp focus the megatrends shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A lot of change has occurred in the world from the spring of 2020 up to this event. The COVID pandemic had shifted our worlds. The uncertainty and ambiguity brought about by the evolving circumstance of a global pandemic was a cause for pause. A time to re-evaluate and find strategies to address new challenges that faced us all.

My talk focused on navigating the fluid world of exponential change, facing down the unknown and looking for ways to remain buoyant in the sea of change all around us.

I suggested that cultural mindsets had been shifting over the past few years and that they had been hastened in the context of the global pandemic. When brands, their goods, services and experiences, are at odds with evolving culture, they can lose their value even if their legacy stays strong.

As cultural transformation happens, brands need to learn how to navigate cultural complexity and create a different future that is aligned with the pace of change.

In a post-pandemic, experience-seeking economy, health, safety and welfare are a baseline in the guest expectation set. But addressing evolving customer needs was now well beyond making sure customers were safe while shopping, visiting a hotel or simply being out in the community.

How do we keep up with the pace of change? As the pace of change speeds along how can we finding meaning in the in-between of the last and the next big thing?

I focused on how can changing your mindset about change allow us to see the ‘now’ as an emergent space of creative possibility?

Changing your mindset – reframing the context – seeing the interdependency of things – looking for opportunity in upheaval… these all seemed to be front-row-center how we needed to adjust to a new world order.

As I was in the speaker’s green room waiting for my time slot to come up, in bounds a woman with an air of openness, humility and eagerness to connect. There was an energy of confidence that emanated from her.

She seemed to stand her ground, command her conversations and did so while not imposing on you but welcoming you into a shared space of empathic connection. I thought to my self, that I had to make sure that is saw that presentation.

When Lisa Sun hit the stage, she was direct and vulnerable. She was hilarious with her impressions of her Taiwanese mother who she says was a Tiger Mom before it became a thing with publishing of Amy Chua’s book that popularized the term.

She shared her personal journey, living with her immigrant parents in Rancho Cucamonga who ran the only Chinese restaurant withing 40 miles of her home. Her first job out of college was working in a scrap metal yard, then worked for 11 years at McKinsey and Company where she spent on average 250 days a year on the road. She decided to take an 11 month sojourn to travel the world ending her trip with passing through Taiwan where her parents had retired.

Her mother tried convinced her to spend half of her life’s saving to create her own business rather than going back to the corporate consulting world. A fateful yearly performance review led to an epiphany and that in turn led her to her company Gravitas being born.

Today Lisa Sun is the founder and CEO of GRAVITAS, a company on a mission to catalyze confidence. GRAVITAS offers innovative size-inclusive apparel, styling solutions, and content designed to make over women from the inside out.

Her first collection was featured inO, The Oprah Magazine, People,and theToday show in the same month.

Lisa Sun and GRAVITAS have been featured on CNN and inForbesFast Company,New York magazine, ElleMarie Claire,InStyle, and more.

Often called the “dress whisperer,” Lisa is also a highly sought-after public speaker who likes to impart her hard-won knowledge on having gravitas and how to best harness it in other people.

10 + years after starting Gravitas the company, “Gravitas: the book, subtitled “The 8 Strengths That Redefine Confidence” has been published.

In her book Lisa Sun shares her journey of self-discovery and combines it with proprietary research, real-world examples, and anecdotes from other successful women who have championed their own definition of self-worth.

When I think back to the Vision Monday Leadership Summit and it being called “Discover & Recalibrate! Trends, Ideas and Tactics for Confronting Radical Change” I was talking about the radical environmental contextual change all around us and how that would influence change in the way we re-thought the design of our companies, brand experience places and re-writing long-held narratives that were no longer suited to a world of rapid change.

I think Lisa’s talk was signaling the need for personal radical change. Seeking for a view of oneself that required a mindset shift to believing in a sense of self-empowerment – welcoming change as a vehicle for personal growth.

Gravitas, both the apparel company and the book, seek to “catalyze confidence.”



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Twitter: DavidKepron

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David Kepron is a multifaceted creative professional with a deep curiosity to understand ‘why’, ‘what’s now’ and ‘what’s next’. He brings together his background as an architect, artist, educator, author, podcast host and builder to the making of meaningful and empathically-focused, community-centric customer connections at brand experience places around the globe.

David is a former VP – Global Design Strategies at Marriott International. While at Marriott, his focus was on the creation of compelling customer experiences within Marriott’s “Premium Distinctive” segment which included: Westin, Renaissance, Le Meridien, Autograph Collection, Tribute Portfolio, Design Hotels and Gaylord hotels.

In 2020 Kepron founded NXTLVL Experience Design, a strategy and design consultancy, where he combines his multidisciplinary approach to the creation of relevant brand engagements with his passion for social and cultural anthropology, neuroscience and emerging digital technologies.

As a frequently requested international speaker at corporate events and international conferences focusing on CX, digital transformation, retail, hospitality, emerging technology, David shares his expertise on subjects ranging from consumer behaviors and trends, brain science and buying behavior, store design and visual merchandising, hotel design and strategy as well as creativity and innovation. In his talks, David shares visionary ideas on how brand strategy, brain science and emerging technologies are changing guest expectations about relationships they want to have with brands and how companies can remain relevant in a digitally enabled marketplace.

David currently shares his experience and insight on various industry boards including: VMSD magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board, the Interactive Customer Experience Association, Sign Research Foundation’s Program Committee as well as the Center For Retail Transformation at George Mason University.

He has held teaching positions at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.), the Department of Architecture & Interior Design of Drexel University in Philadelphia, the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising (L.I.M.) in New York, the International Academy of Merchandising and Design in Montreal and he served as the Director of the Visual Merchandising Department at LaSalle International Fashion School (L.I.F.S.) in Singapore.

In 2014 Kepron published his first book titled: “Retail (r)Evolution: Why Creating Right-Brain Stores Will Shape the Future of Shopping in a Digitally Driven World” and he is currently working on his second book to be published soon. David also writes a popular blog called “Brain Food” which is published monthly on


The next level experience design podcast is presented by VMSD magazine and Smartwork Media. It is hosted and executive produced by David Kepron. Our original music and audio production by Kano Sound. 

The content of this podcast is copyright to David Kepron and NXTLVL Experience Design. Any publication or rebroadcast of the content is prohibited without the expressed written consent of David Kepron and NXTLVL Experience Design.

Make sure to tune in for more NXTLVL “Dialogues on DATA: Design Architecture Technology and the Arts” wherever you find your favorite podcasts and make sure to visit and look for the tab for the NXTLVL Experience Design podcast there too.



MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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