Wednesday, 24 March 2010

A Peek inside the Designer's Studio: Christine Mhando of ChiChia London

Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria I've always had a special place in my heart for all things African; the weather, the food, the colours and the beautiful fabrics (some of the stuff you don't see on TV - it's not all corruption and poverty). As a designer myself with Renaissance of our Roots I love to see other designers that are also using African fabrics - there will come a time when African print won't just be a trend but be norm, you heard it here first!

I first mentioned ChiChia London during fashion week; I saw the collection at the Untold Fashion show on Day 4 and got to chat with the designer of the brand, Christine Mhando. See how we got on after the jump:

MHIINYC: Tell us about growing up in London? Do you go back to your hometown in Tanzania often?   
Christine Mhando: My family moved to London when I was 10 (my dad got a job working for the BBC World Service) so I went to High school and had my teen years here in London. It was quite a normal one. Once we moved to London we’d go back to Tanzania at least every 2 or 3 years but in recent years I’ve been going back 2 or 3 times a year. Love it!! 

MHIINYC: How did you get interested in fashion? 
CM: From when I was very young I was always fascinated when I saw really well dressed women. My mum always made/makes an effort with her appearance so I guess I was influenced by her. My aunt (mum’s younger sister) used to make clothes and I’d watch her turn a piece of fabric into a dress. I thought ‘Wow, it’s like magic!’ So I started making clothes for my dolls.

MHIINYC: What was it like studying at London College of Fashion and then later Kent University?
CM: I went to study at London College of Fashion from when I left high school at 16 and that’s where I learned to sew and pattern cut. LCF was where I learned the construction side of fashion but as a teenager going to school in the heart of London can get a little bit distracting so I decided to complete the last 2 years of my degree at Kent institute of Art and Design (now known as Kent University) and that’s where I really found my “creative” feet, the course leaders were really good at encouraging us to accentuate our strong points.
 Khanga maxi dress from 'Mwangaza'. I love that it has pockets
MHIINYC: What inspires you when you are designing your collections?
CM: I’m inspired by many different aspects but I would say first and foremost, the fabrics and prints. 

MHIINYC: Walk us through the process of designing one of your collections, your last collection ‘Made in Dar’ for example
CM: With “Made in Dar”, I started with around 20 khanga and vitenge prints (not all prints eventually made the cut – no pun intended!) that I had bought during a sourcing trip in Dar Es Salaam, locked myself in a room with all the prints laid out on the floor, did a few sketches and some modelling/ draping on the stand to explore shapes and silhouettes. Every single first sample from the collection I made myself and then the rest of the production was done in Dar Es Salaam.
 Yellow lace print Khanga dress from 'Made in Dar'
MHIINYC: What do you think of the new ASOS Africa range using fabric from Kenya and Tanzania? Do they do the fabrics justice?
CM: If I had a penny for every time I’ve been asked about ASOS Africa in the past 3 months, I could have saved up enough to fly to Africa and back [laughs].The African print trend is at its biggest ever so it makes sense for large companies such as ASOS to make this accessible to their customers. I’ve only just seen the collection and think it looks great, I love the jacket but can’t buy it of course for obvious reasons... A friend of mine bought it though then asked me if it was disloyal of her... I may just borrow it from her [laughs] 
MHIINYC: Do you look up to any designers?
CM: Lots of great designers are bringing out fantastic collections season by season. I love the ones that always keep it new and you can never guess what they’re going to do– too many to mention .Oh yeah one... Have you seen Alexander McQueen’s Winter 2010 collection? Phenomenal!

MHIINYC: Do you have a moodboard where you sketch ideas?
CM: Ohh how I wish I had time for moodboards (I have them in my head). I do have a sketch book with lots of messy doodles of things that are supposed to look like clothes though
 Print button up tunic with bead detail from 'Succulent'
MHIINYC: If you weren’t designing clothes what else would you be doing?
CM: I’ve always wanted to learn to play the drums, maybe I can join a band... more realistically I’d probably be a stylist or something

MHIINYC: Do you see yourself doing ChiChia for Men in the future?
CM: Not in the near future but who knows. I would do a childrenswear range first though, far more fun and a lot cuter

MHIINYC: What plans do you have for the future? 
CM: I would love for ChiChia to eventually become a worldwide recognised brand with stores and concessions all over the globe

MHIINYC: Do you have any advice for upcoming designers?
CM: Always stay true to yourself!!
 Frill sleeve dress with beading detail and print skirt from 'Understated Regal'
Quickfire questions: 

Describe your personal style

What are your five must-have wardrobe pieces?
Right now: Jeans, animal print, leather separates, dresses, dresses, dresses!!! (actually Christine that’s technically six but it’s ok because I HEART dresses too)

Do you spend more money on shoes or bags?
Oh dear... probably shoes these days

Would you ever wear underwear as outerwear?
Depends. Not JUST underwear though, no

Name something you do when you’re alone that you wouldn’t do in front of others
Google myself (*Blushes*) (I do too, I even have Google Alert setup – it’s ok we’re the cool ones)
This printed summer Jacket from 'Mwangaza' is the latest addition to my lust list

ChiChia London is available to buy at The Look Boutique, Unique Boutique and The Laden Showroom. Check out their website and Facebook page and they also tweet @ChiChiaLondon.

It's actually Christine's birthday today, have a fabulous day today from My Heart is in New York


Emete said...

Great interview! thanks for a good read x

Ekaete said...

Glad you enjoyed it hun. Thanks for leaving a comment :D