I Dressed Beyonce: 6 Top Tips For Getting Into Fashion Design

Beyonce in Chichia

Beyonce wearing Chichia on the Mrs Carter Tour 2013

Christine Mhando is a London-based designer and stylist who set up her own fashion label, Chichia in 2007.  Born in Tanzania and raised in London, Christine’s designs blend the influences of both continents and cultures, with the label’s signature ‘khanga’ prints and edgy, modern silhouettes.

Christine’s designs have been featured in Vogue Italia and Marie Claire, and were recently seen on Beyonce on her Mrs Carter world tour.  She shares her top tips for getting a career started in fashion design.

Christine Mhando

Christine Mhando

6 Top Tips for getting into Fashion Design

1. Study

My fashion career began with me attending college, then later university, where I studied fashion design. Many successful designers have managed to get into fashion with no formal education but for me it was crucial. Being in an environment where there is guidance and you are encouraged to explore your signature style, as well as being taught the fundamental skills from constructing a garment to business management was an important part of getting into fashion.

2. Get work experience

Consider doing (unpaid) internships with established labels once you complete your studies. It is almost impossible to get a job in the fashion industry right out of college/ university and work placements are a great way of getting your foot in the door and adding to the CV. Many designers use interns during their busy periods (usually right before they launch new collections at fashion week) so it’s a good idea to start approaching companies several months before that.

3. Create a strong brand identity and know your client base

It’s really important build a brand that stands out. Why should people buy your clothes when they can buy from more popular established brands? Try to offer a concept that is unique and sets you apart from literally the millions of fashion brands that you are competing with. Also have a clear idea of who you want to wear your clothes. I design for the confident woman who dresses to stand out and enjoys colour and prints. Therefore it would be unnecessary for me to market my designs to the girl that doesn’t fit this description.

4. Set realistic goals

Know where you want to place your brand within the market and have a clear map  of how you would like to see it develop (short term and long term).

Chichia Luxe Concept collection 2014

5. Online platforms/ social media

Most new designers start off with a low budget and spending money on PR is not even an option. Make use of the many free online platforms around these days. This is a tool that designers didn’t even have 10 years ago so we are lucky. With a strong online presence, you can have your collections seen on the other side of the world without you actually having to physically carry it there. How amazing is that?  Many of our stockists (we have stockists in Japan, Italy, Australia, Sweden, South Africa to name a few) have come across Chichia from seeing articles on blogs or photos on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Last year I received an email out of the blue from Beyonce’s stylists who found my collection on Not Just A Label and wanted to pick up some Chichia items for her to wear. A month later she was photographed on stage wearing one of my designs. Online platforms really work!

6. Dedication

It’s not all fashion shows, champagne and parties. Being a fashion designer is one of the hardest and most stressful jobs as the environment is usually high pressured and fast paced. I never knew what a migraine felt like until I started getting them during my first ever job. I worked as a design assistant-slash-runner for a high street manufacturers and had to balance my design duties and  being the office assistant. It can be highly rewarding and there’s nothing like that great feeling that comes from knowing that you have made a client happy just from wearing something you created. But also be prepared for the long hours and setbacks such as being let down by factories/suppliers, orders being cancelled, late deliveries and so on. These mishaps are inevitable and happen to all designers. You have to really love what you do to survive.

#ProudestMoment

There have been a few happy moments in my career but the proudest has to be Queen Bey wearing our top and looking very fabulous in it.

#CringeMoment

Probably anytime I have to do an interview on camera. I’ll never get used to it. My inner shy girl always comes out.

Links:
Chichia website
@ChichiaLondon on Twitter
@Chichiagram on Instagram