In the lead up to the fabulous event An Old Scholar Fashion Affair I'd like to introduce you to Chiquita Searle, and her brand Chi The Label which is one of the few coveted brands showcasing at the event on 13 April 2012....

How long ago was Chi The Label launched?
It’s always been something that I knew I would do at some stage and about 15 months ago I reassessed where I was personally and professionally and it seemed like a good time to put the wheels into motion. I have been working on it steadily since about October 2010 and it’s now starting to gain traction which is fabulous.

What inspired you to create your own fashion label?
I have loved clothes from a very early age. My first pay check from my first job when I was 14 was spent on an outfit from Sportsgirl. It was too big at the time but that didn’t stop me from buying it. Even when I went to uni, Mum and Dad would give me money for textbooks and I’d spend it on clothes. They fed my soul more than any amount of knowledge or education could ever do. Then around exam time I’d be ringing my sister to ask her to buy my textbooks for me so I could study for the exams! My love for designing clothes, helping women feel sexy and confident and generally just creating something that I think is beautiful inspires me and continues to do so every day. It’s my favourite part.  
Chi The Label is instantly recognised for it’s corporate wearability, is there a specific reason you decided to specialise in work wear?
I have spent the last 10 years in corporate HR and Recruitment roles and I have always enjoyed making an effort to look stylish for the office. We don’t have many options in Australia when it comes to fashionable attire for the corporate woman so I decided to fulfil this much neglected gap in the market. So now when I design, I focus on providing unconventional yet classy garments professional women can wear to the office which will easily transition to after works drinks.

Your label also offers corporate styling sessions, what are the main things that participants can take away from the styling parties?
I recently completed a survey of the shopping trends of corporate women in Australia and the overwhelming result was that professional women are frustrated in not being able to style their own corporate outfits to look their impeccable best each morning.  Which is essentially why I decided to launch the Chi Corporate Styling Session. The main learning that women take away from these styling sessions is the understanding of how and what to wear to work which will flatter their body shape while still remaining individual and true to their own sense of style. Clothes are all about making an individual feel good and that’s what I aim to achieve with each new design.
Are the styling sessions an effective marketing/sales technique? Would you recommend this unique approach to other up and coming designers? 
I decided to launch the Chi Corporate Styling Sessions mainly to provide simple yet effective tips to my clients on how they can look fabulous for the office each day and it has evolved into an opportunity for them to try on the Chi label and the label has become more popular as a result. Those who try something on generally buy it as they like the way it fits and makes them feel. The survey results also indicated that women are dissatisfied with the options available to them in terms of corporate wear and they don’t have time for shopping which is why again the styling sessions are great because it’s fulfilling two needs at once.

Your work utilizes a lot of imported fabrics, how important is quality fabric when creating corporate wear?
The fabric is of the utmost importance. I’ve used Lace imported from France, Satin Duchesse from Switzerland, Lambskin Leather from Japan. Fabric is something I don’t compromise on. I am very particular and only select those which are of the highest quality because even the most beautiful design is nothing without quality fabric.
You create an amazing 6-8 new pieces every month, where do you gain your inspiration?
To be honest, the design aspect is the easiest part for me. I literally think about new designs ALL the time. I sleep with a pencil and pad next to me at night and I’ll wake up in the middle of the night to quickly capture a new design or idea. I can sit down for 30 minutes and have 6 new designs ready to go. I’m a visual person so the visual image I see of a new design is very strong in my mind and then it’s just a matter of putting pencil to paper.

The Happy Birthday Alice collection is a departure from corporate wear, is this an avenue you are looking to explore further in the future?
The Happy Birthday Alice Collection was my first collection which was a tribute to a beautiful friend of mine Alice for her 30th birthday. It represents her personality which is quirky, mischievous and a little bit naughty. The Corporate wear is my true passion and it’s the direction my label will follow for the future. 
What have been some highlights so far?
There have been so many but I’d have to say studying at the Paris Fashion Institute last year was a stand out. I met some amazing people who I am still in touch with and learned so much from some fabulous lecturers who have been in the industry in Europe for many many years.

What’s next for Chi The Label?
A Pop Up Shop in the Valley! I’ll be at Level 2, 6 Marshall Street in the Valley (behind the Family) for the month of April and will also be showcasing at An Old Scholar Fashion Affair on 13th April. Then I’m thinking, total domination of corporate attire for professional women in Australia!

To purchase your tickets now to the amazing event click here

Questions by Akahsha Edwards

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