Interview: Lisa Crosswhite of Chi Chi Von Tang
Supermodel-turned-designer Lisa Crosswhite speaks to us about her growing fashion label, the obstacles she’s faced and future plans for Chi Chi Von Tang.
Lisa Crosswhite is clearly a go-getter. Besides having ‘international supermodel’ on her resume, she also boasts a career as Brand Strategist at Ogilvy & Mather and now, founder and director of online fashion retailer Gnossem, as well as designer of at her own label, Chi Chi Von Tang. As a supporter of independent designer fashion, Crosswhite wanted to provide customers with unique labels with Asian influencers, which is exactly what both of her brands deliver.
Coupled with her extensive experience in the fashion industry, her designs for Chi Chi Von Tang are not only contemporary, but also often pay homage to her Asian roots and show her deep appreciation for the diverse culture. Her latest collection for fall, “The Burma Collection” is inspired by the richness in culture and heritage of the tribes in Myanmar during her travels there. Here, Lisa Crosswhite lets us in on her progression from supermodel to designer and founder, her proudest moments and lets us in on her personal style.
You used to be an international model, what inspired you to start Gnossem and how did you transition to becoming a designer for Chi Chi Von Tang? How has coming from being a retailer (Gnossem) helped throughout this transition?
Modeling opened up my world to a vast number of designers that were known and supported locally but didn’t reach past their respective countries. Building relationships with local designers and my natural passion for fashion seeded the idea to create a solution for the inaccessibility to amazing independent, high quality designers. The idea for Gnossem was born while I was working as a strategist at Ogilvy & Mather researching online shopping behavior for my then client, Estee Lauder.
As a lover of independent designers and fashion, Chi Chi Von Tang came as a natural progression. With being a retailer and curating the items we stock on Gnossem very carefully I wanted to have more control over the design and the creative vision. Gnossem got to a point where I had more time and space to experiment so the transition to designer felt very natural. I learnt that this aspect of the business was where my passion was and where my talents lay. Chi Chi Von Tang is a brand that is very in line with me and my personality. It was everything I looked for in a label, a vision born from my desire to have a wardrobe rooted with Asian influences.
As a retailer, I have seen so many designers who were unsure of how to communicate with their consumers. Chi Chi Von Tang was born so quickly and fiercely because we already had a team in place, as well as the experience of communicating with consumers, inventory management and raising funds.
Chi Chi Von Tang is described as an amalgamation of street luxe style meets Asian sensation. How would you define this style and who do you feel best embodies this?
People who are strong and playful. Chi Chi Von Tang is a bold, edgy brand that is easy to wear and work with what you already have in your wardrobe. It is reverent and makes you an instant rockstar! We are so glad Mick Jagger and Eve are already fans of the brand!
What are some of the setbacks you’ve faced throughout the journey and what is your proudest moment thus far?
Finding the right manufacturer was definitely one of them. I went through five in the first three months and have finally settled on two amazing partners.
I also tried to set up a traditional technical design team here in Singapore but I soon realised this wasn’t the most effective solution for us. My strength and expertise was in design, fit and fabric and I needed someone who was an expert in this field to execute my vision for me. It’s been more productive and efficient going straight to my experienced manufacturing partner, who has a team of experts handling that part of the creative process. As we go forward and the company grows, I would love to eventually have our own design squad here in Singapore creating blueprints and technical designs.
What’s your personal style like and who are your style icons?
My personal style goes across many genres but I always avoid black – it bores me – and I wear a lot of flats (brogues and masculine shoes are my favorite). You will always see me wearing a statement-making piece, usually a jacket.
My style icons are the really cool, stylish men and women I come across with everyday; the people who take risks by experimenting with fashion on a daily basis – that is the most inspirational.
What are some of your future plans for Chi Chi Von Tang?
I would like Chi Chi Von Tang to be recognized as an international brand. Our goal is to be Asia’s top contemporary street luxe label internationally known for its sophistication. On the retail side, we aim to be a trailblazer in terms of how we sell to our customers. We are always working on creative ways to reach our audience, being as innovative as possible with how consumers engage and buy our brand.
How would you describe the Chi Chi Von Tang woman?