style

The Cool Bohemian; Chichia! @ChichiaLondon

Prints. Colours. Culture. Fashion. Chichia London embodies all that and so much more. A good designer is a good designer no matter their background. Christine Mhando is a good designer, one destined for great things. Her aesthetic is a myriad of colour, cool bohemia and quirk. Its pretty special. No wall flowers here, there isn’t a Chichia piece I didn’t immediately fall in love with. FACT. The signature is with a twist; playful, fresh, emotional, even wild. Bold and beautiful pieces infused with her native Tanzanian heritage, married with signature British quirk, imagine wandering along the beaches of Cornwall, in the Mimosa Maxi, bare-foot and carefree or the Left Bank of Paris in the best selling One Frill Sleeve dress and your prettiest heels, or maybe the Aztec print petal skirt is what tickles your fancy for summer nights…whatever it is, wherever you are, a Chichia piece just fits. Even in the simplest of pieces. Using the Khanga cloth indigenous to East Africa Region, she’s British born Tanzanian, her label is a definition of style through her eyes.

Chichia London is a label loved and adored by the many who covet it, with her own independent online boutique, selling as part of other boutiques; Agnes and Lola, Not Just A Label etc, the label, its stunning pieces, belong in your wardrobe. An essential addition. Besides, Christine is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met, she exudes that laid back charm, never fussed and ever so sweet. She talks with such passion for her craft, with such pride in her culture and she always, always looks so impeccably stylish. I would love to raid her wardrobe…and live in her head for a day or longer, just to see how it all comes together; how she marries her culture into fashion and still maintain that British quirk, how she decides on the seasonal collections, the materials, the colour schemes, the silhouettes…I may never come back out because it’d be like Alice down the rabbit hole to Wonderland.

Thankfully, I don’t have to, at least not right now, she was willing to open up…

Define Chichia in three words.

Colourful, contemporary,  cool.

Who is your ideal woman?

The anti-wall flower.

What are you exploring for Autumn Winter?

We’re on hiatus for Autumn/Winter but already planning for next summer as it’s not far off.. For a while now I’ve been thinking about exploring the idea of using clothing as a form of communication. As you know Chichia’s signature fabric is the East African khanga which women use for adornment as well as to send messages to others using the words that are written on the particular khanga, (and depending on what they want to say.. it can get quite personal which is quite fun!). So currently in the process of brainstorming how this can be translated into something.. modern, not necessarily using words but some form of communication.

How would you describe the African fashion industry?

We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go. It’s fantastic to see so many great African owned platforms (publications, retailers, blogs etc) that are all playing a part in helping shine a spotlight on the African clothing industry and help bring it’s attention to the “mainstream”.  Africa is “in” right now as we all know, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the industry is benefiting from this as much at it perhaps should but it’s positive that there is so much focus on Africa.

What is your key aesthetic when it comes to designing your collection?

I like to show some growth within each range in order to avoid the collections looking the same season after season. The challenge is doing this while still maintaining a quirky, fun and timeless Chichia signature.

What are the three essentials for your wardrobe for any season? 

1. Jeans,

2. something made out of colourful leather (this season i’m obsessed with my vintage french navy pencil skirt),

3. Whatever my favourite piece is from my current collection. This season I can’t stop wearing my Sawa Sawa tunic (from Chichia for Made by Africa SS12)

What is a typcial day in your life?

There’s really no such thing as “a typical day” for me as each week brings new challenges/ dilemmas/ excitement. Generally my days are filled with client appointments, visiting trim suppliers, organising orders to be sent out to customers etc.. It also depends on the time of year, if  it’s the start of the season and I’m working on a new collection then I’d spend a lot of time in my studio developing new ideas, working on mood boards, sampling and pulling my hair out (haha).

How do you run the operations of the label; where garments are made, who makes them etc..

The label is based in London and we manufacture in Tanzania. Recently we have been producing collections at Kibo Trade Textiles ( http://www.kibotrade.com/ ) which is a fantastic fair trade production unit in Dar Es Salaam.