Here I catch up with Christina Chi where I learn more about her brand and what it took for her to take that leap from Human Resources to accessories designer. Check it out!
Can you tell us a bit more about your brand?
My brand is called Christina Chi, Christina is my first name and Chi is my middle name. I would describe Chi as good energy, that’s why I used the name Chi because I believe you should put positive energy into everything you do. And three words to describe my brand: classic, retro and meaningful.
What is the inspiration behind your handbag designs?
My inspiration came from my grandma. When I was younger she first taught me how to sew. She was a seamstress; worked in Oxford Street when she came here from Nigeria. So, she was the initial inspiration but I’m more inspired by the fact that I one day want to create my own handbag line. And yeah, just about being a strong woman and owning something, putting your name to something has always been something I’ve always wanted to do.
Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
No, I didn’t know in the beginning. I am creative and I have the creativity but I just didn’t know that I could make a career out of it. So, at school I was really good at graphic design, all the creative stuff I was better at. I liked performing arts, I used to dance after school and sing in a choir. But when it came to me studying a degree, I began to think on the business side and what would get me a job and into HR (human resources) because that was what I studied and that’s what I did when I left university. Initially, I didn’t want to work in HR; after studying it I thought this is boring (laughs) I don’t know why I did it. It wasn’t until I started working in HR that I started to look around at courses that could give me a boost, and that’s when I done a short course at the London College of Fashion, Buying and Merchandising and Handbag Design. And then from there I thought I could do this and continue to build a brand.
What was the turning point for you from HR to accessories designer?
At work I was so de-motived; I just wasn’t involved in it anymore. I just knew that my job needed to involve something creative or it wasn’t going to motivate me enough, I just wasn’t going to be interested. So after working for 2 years, I started to just become bored and frustrated. I kind of had a quarter life crisis where you don’t know who you are or what you want to be or how you want to be. But through soul searching and finding out what I liked as a child, and then thinking okay let me explore this fashion area and see where I could fit in, and decided it was bags. I never saw myself sewing but I just like the fact of putting an idea together and putting a concept together and I thought with bags it was more relatable than clothes.
Do you remember your very first handbag design?
Has your style changed from that very first design?
No. The very first bag I designed, sketched on paper and then created in Illustrator is the bag I have in my collection now. So, yeah it hasn’t changed.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on launching the brand. I have launched it already but I feel like I need to launch properly. Everything I’ve done up until this point was to test the market. So now I want to launch the brand focusing on limited edition handbag pieces, bespoke, for both men and women.
Who or what influences you?
Right now, it’s anybody who is doing stuff, like female bosses, entrepreneurs, people that juggle multiple things. Those are the people I’m inspired by, people who are trying to make a statement to the world; they want to make a change and a difference with what they do.
What obstacles have you faced as a designer so far?
Basically the fashion industry is like a little club, that’s the obstacle, really (laughs).
Who’s your favorite designer and why?
I like Sophia Webster who does shoes, Paula Cademartori who does handbags and some Nigerian designers.
Best advice you’ve been given so far?
Collaborate with others; you cannot do this alone. You have to put yourself out there.
In 5 years, where do you see your brand?
I see my brand as well known and respected. Also, having a message out there that is positive and empowering to people; that helps people. It’s not just about being a fashion brand; I want to do more than just being a fashion brand.
Do you have any advice for any aspiring designers?
Do what you love.
What’s the last thing you bought?
A pack of mints.
If you could send out a message to women what would it be?
You can do it all; it is possible.
Where can we find you?