Patricia Chang: A Whimsical Vision and Sharp Business Mind
As you can imagine, we're pretty excited about our second store opening soon in Chelsea Market. We can’t wait to share our wide array of unique and eclectic housewares, snacks, fashion accessories, and more with both new fans and long-time enthusiasts.
Included also will be new and exciting featured designers who share our vision of cultural exchange, a love of New York, and just plain fun. We recently had the chance to chat with one of those designers, Patricia Chang. The creator of whimsical handbags and wallets as well as ridiculously adorable baby wear talked to us about how she started her own business, the challenges of balancing family and work, and the time she dreamed about robots.
Have you always been interested in fashion and design?
Yes! Ever since I can remember. Even in grade school I had a sketchbook dedicated to illustrations and outfit sketches, always pretending I am a fashion designer. In high school I went away for a summer to major in fashion design at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where I ended up attending college.
Tell me a little about your background and where you grew up.
I'm Korean-American, born and raised in New York. Since graduating from RISD with a major in graphic design in 2006, I have worked in the fashion industry and debuted my first women’s ready-to-wear collection in 2012. It was also the year I got married to the father of our now two baby boys.
What did your parents think of your career choice?
My parents are loving and always have been incredibly supportive. They trusted all my decisions and just wanted to me to be happy. I’ve always been into art and fashion since I was young so each step was very natural and no surprise to them.
What made you decide to start your own business?
As a kid I always imagined I would be a fashion designer with my own brand. Once I graduated and started working, I witnessed how much pressure there is when you run a business. The idea of running one myself seemed very daunting, and it was much easier and secure working for someone else.
Working in many small offices and after years of experience, I accumulated enough knowledge and understanding to give me the confidence to start my own business. Over time the idea became less intimidating and more exciting again. When I was working for others, there were so many ideas I could not execute because it wasn't my company, and I was ready to unleash them somewhere!
How does running your own business compare with working for someone else?
Running your own business definitely allows more freedom and control, but it can also be scary. There is a lot more responsibility for many reasons, including having your own capital at risk. On the other hand I get to experiment as much as my heart desires. I always thought working for someone else was the best kind of school, but running your own business will force you to learn beyond your comfort zone.
What advice would have for other entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Take it slow and steady. You must love it with all your heart and more because it will require everything of you. When I was starting out, I was expecting my days to be spent designing away — instead, I found it turned out to be 1% of the work load. Be prepared to learn about business and finance!
Is it a challenge balancing parenthood and running your own business? What advice would you have for someone trying to do the same?
Absolutely. The most difficult part is time management. I'm a stay-at-home mom and I do have help, but even then, everything is still incredibly slow work wise. You can't ignore a hungry crying baby, versus let's say, an email. So the kids are the priority. It's hard to find a long stretch of dedicated time to focus on the business. I believe "Where there's a will, there's a way." If you are passionate about running your own business, you will find ways to make it work!
I absolutely love your whimsical designs! (I want that robot necklace.) How do you come up with them? What’s your process?
I try to design pieces I want to own or wear. First, I come up with a theme. When I did the robot collection, I initially designed an entire collection with a different inspiration. One night I had a dream about a "robot jacket." When I woke up, I scrapped the entire collection and designed the robot jacket in real life! Then I created a collection around it based on robots.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
It comes from everywhere. My surroundings, my latest obsessions, a material (ie. fabric or crystals) or art history. Every collection works differently. For instance, living in Manhattan, I walk by pretzel stands everyday and that's how I came up with the pretzel bag. It naturally lead to its cousins: the donut bag, a French toast bag, taco clutch, etc.
What’s something that’s inspiring you right now?
I am always inspired by chinoiserie! I'm currently in a home/interior design phase and I love that chinoiserie is classic and continues to be stylish and elegant.
Ms. Chang's collection will be available at our Chelsea Market location beginning Nov. 16. Until then, get a sneak peek.