Handbag designer Stacy Chan tells us how she went from finance to fashion

Having carved out a successful career working in finance, Stacy Chan realised the importance of following her true passion for accessories and design. Taking a love of handbags as her starting point she launched her eponymous label that continues to grow every season.

Stacy tells us about how she made the move from finance to fashion, and discusses inspiration, everyday life and the importance of self-confidence.

1. Having started working in the finance world, what made you decide to take the leap and move into fashion?

I spent ten years working in finance and followed the classic career path from investment banking to private equity to a hedge fund. At that point I felt that although I had achieved a great deal and enjoyed aspects of my work, I felt that I wanted to tackle something new and exciting. My decision to start a luxury handbag business stemmed from my love of clutch bags. I set out to create a brand unique in the market, but still classic. My first step was to start sketching, and as my ideas began to take shape, I enrolled in a Handbag Design course at the London College of Fashion and the rest is history!

2. How have you found starting your own label – what are the challenges and highlights of creating a brand, particularly an eponymous label? 

Starting the Stacy Chan label has been exhilarating – that’s not to say that it has been easy. There have been many ups and downs, but it has definitely been worth it.

I’ve always been into the fashion industry but did tons of research to fully get up to speed. I was determined to do everything fast, but discovering manufacturers in Italy and making the right decision about it took longer than expected. But at least this meant I spent plenty of time in Italy and had the chance to try some amazing food. The whole Stacy Chan adventure has taken a great deal of determination so far; however, it is surreal to think that I was able to transform an idea I drew on paper years ago into something real that people love as much as I do!

Image Credit: Stacy Chan

Image Credit: Stacy Chan

3. Talk us through your average day

All my days are different depending on whether I have to wear my designer, marketing, accounting, sales or production hat! As a fashion designer, I am working on sales for the current season, production for the coming season, and sampling for the season after.

There are a lot of things to juggle; for instance, this week, I had to put together my quarterly accounts, attend a women’s networking event, research a Christmas pop-up, travel to Milan for a production/sampling meeting, send a the first bags to my new stockist in Japan, add the newest clutch bags to my website and put together an email for the mailing list. Next week will be completely different!

4. What influences inform your designs and your branding as a whole? 

The unique shapes are definitely a signature for the brand. I wanted to create something that was different than what is in the market. The designs take classic shapes with clean lines and make them modern and new so that they are relevant today and will also look great each season.

The designs are inspired by the different places and cultures I have had the opportunity to experience. I have lived in five different cities and also love to travel around the world – the sunsets on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro are reflected in the pastels of the tote bags while the metalwork on the Golden Jewel Clutch Collection is influenced by the intricate metal lamps I saw in Marrakech.

Image Credit: Stacy Chan

Image Credit: Stacy Chan

5. What advice do you have for those interested in pursuing a career in design?

If you are thinking about a career change and want to have a taste before you take the leap, I highly recommend taking a short course. It will give you a decent foundation and also help you decide if it were something you would enjoy doing full time.

Once you’ve made the decision though, perseverance is essential. There is a lot of competition out there and you need to be able to withstand all the entire “No’s” before you start getting to the “Yes’s.”

6. What do you think are the key accessories for a work-wear look?

If you’re working in a relatively conservative work place, accessories are the best way to express your personal style. Our Veronica Tote Bags are classic and perfect for your every day commute while our newest Amy Work Bag would be at home in any board meeting.

Image Credit: Stacy Chan

Image Credit: Stacy Chan

7. What advice would you give to your 16 year-old self?

All the choices I have made in my life and career, both good and bad, have led me down the path of a handbag designer. I have no regrets, so the advice I would give to my younger self is to have more confidence and faith in yourself, and everything will work out as it should.

8. Finally, what are your career goals for the future?

I am continuing to grow the Stacy Chan brand, and in the near term, there will be more handbag designs and colours on the way.  Looking further ahead, the brand will hopefully expand to include additional accessories, including wallets, shoes, luggage and sunglasses. One of the benefits of running your own business is that as my company grows in the future, so does my career!

Now what?