Get to Know Christin
GET TO KNOW ONE OF OUR GIRLBOSS FOUNDATION GRANT RECIPIENTS: CHRISTIN CHANG
Hi Christin! Where did you grow up? How did it shape who you are/the work you do today?
I was born in Los Angeles, but when I was six our family moved to Seoul, Korea. We lived there for about five years and then moved to New York. I spent most of my teenage years in Commack - a small town in Long Island, New York. It definitely wasn’t easy living in multiple cities but it really helped me become more creative. For example, I used to make friends by drawing things for them. Because I was living in a foreign country with a language barrier, I began using art as an outlet to understanding and expressing myself.
Did you go to college? If so, where did you study and what did you get out the process?
I studied Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I still remember starting my freshmen year with this mysterious class called Concept 101, and wondering what we would be learning. It was the strangest and the most difficult class because there were no guidelines and restrictions. It was also the class where we did most of the reading - we were assigned more reading assignments than an English class! It definitely took some time to get used to but it was well worth it at the end. Concept class was like learning to be an artist backward: most schools taught by teaching the basic skills of drawing, material exploration etc, but Concept 101 taught us to examine the theme and idea of the art first, then explore ways to execute it. This is where I learned to create work with strong narrative and a story. CMU built the foundation of creating meaningful work with a core concept and a narrative.
Who was your hero or greatest inspiration growing up?
I went through phases of obsessing over different artists, rom Henri Matisse all the way to contemporary artists like Kour Pour. My longest artist-hero crush was probably Henri Matisse. Fauvism has to be one of my favorite movement but I especially fell in love with his life long dedication for art. I remember reading a children’s book on Matisse’s work and learning that he began making paper cut outs - ‘gouaches de coupes’ - because he could no longer paint because of his illness. With the help of his assistant, he would cut out paper from his bed and have his assistant assemble it. Even at a young age, I was moved by his courage to start another chapter in his life despite his physical obstacles.
What inspires you now?
I’ve been reading a lot on women leaders. I want to know everything! Sheryl Sandberg and Sophia Amoruso are definitely on top of my list.
How did the idea for Chrisu come about?
I initially wanted to be a professor and teach. I started my Masters in education and realized that it was definitely not the path for me. With only two semesters remaining, I decided not to return to school. At that time, I had no backup plan or an idea of how I was going to support myself. I went through a period where I felt lost and unmotivated. One evening, I had an idea of designing silk scarves - it seemed like the perfect combination of fashion and art. I always love collecting luxury vintage scarves and I wanted to make wearable art that is trendy but still timeless. I saw that the lack of trendy silk scarves and wanted to revive that style for a younger generation.
How did you develop the idea into a business?
Even though the business was officially launched in 2013, it took two years of planning and designing behind the scenes Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t have a business degree nor knew anything about textile art. If I knew back then of how much work was ahead of me I would have been too discouraged to start! I designed few sample scarves and got them printed. Then I took them to Henri Bendel for their open see event, where designers get a chance to meet the buyers for 5-10 minutes to pitch their product. I stood in line for 9 hours in the middle of winter, shivering outside with other designers. When I finally got a chance to meet them, they all loved my scarves. Even the senior buyer came into the room where I was presenting and was asking me questions. After that, I had booked 3 pop-up stores with Henri Bendel. The sales from those helped me generate money to print more and more designs.
What advice would you give to girls who want to do your job?
It’s very important to have a foundation in drawing and painting. Even the greatest idea and concept is worthless if you can't execute it. Learn and practice by taking art classes. Next: read and see a lot. One big advice I give is to stop looking online for inspiration. You need to find a source of inspiration that a million other people aren’t tapping into. Go visit museums, botanical gardens, travel, read: this will all help you create work that is unique and different - because it’s coming directly from your own experience.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over” - F.Scott Fitzgerald. This quote is on a small post-it on my studio desk. This gave me strength to leave my Masters program, and hopefully it will help me conquer my fears relentlessly knowing that I can always stop and start over.
What's your favorite thing to do when you're not working?
When I am not working I am usually at the gym or cooking. Not that I love working out or cooking, it’s just what I catch myself doing most of the time! I am all about multitasking so whenever I'm doing those things, I'm also listening to audio books or podcasts. I rarely have any time to sit and read but I have a very long list of books I want to read, so I have someone read me the book while I’m on the treadmill or painting!
What are you planning next?
Launching my luxury line of pajamas! We are currently in the process of making our first batch of samples. Our PJ will use designs derived from our hand painted silk scarves so it will be one a kind design and definitely not your traditional patterned pajamas. Please stay tuned!