CHC: The "Why" Behind the Relaunch

July 06, 2016

Our recent collection launch has brought with it a number of changes for the company. In the interest of sharing our experience as well as keeping communications transparent with you, our consumer, we wanted to take some time to address said changes as well as highlight some of the new information that comes with the Dawn|Dusk Collection, in the words of our Owner/Creative Director, Chelli.
CHC Chelli Look, Owner/Creative Director, In Studio
 A bit of perspective:
As with any field, when time and technology grows, if a company doesn’t stop to think and plan ahead, they simply get swept up in the tides of change. And in January, that’s exactly where I felt like CHC was…..swept up and riding out this uncontrollable wave. After zero successes from our last tradeshows, as an owner, I was at my lowest of lows and seriously considering shutting it down and walking away, picking up a steady job and moving on with life, cause hey, I gave it a shot, right?

During a coffee meetup with a dear friend, I was sharing my woes and explaining how I felt enslaved to a fashion system that was in disarray with seemingly no open door for new ways of approach or thinking. And she asked me, “If you were never given or taught the “how-to” about building a brand, what do you think you would do or how would CHC look?”

A seemingly simple question, right? But no one had ever opened up the box for me in that way, so to speak. I promptly replied, “I’d get rid of seasons, especially with accessories and I would focus completely on my customer and what they want instead of splitting my time/energy between them and buyers, I would make killer product, the absolute best way I know how with the best materials I could. And I would have fun with it...inviting my customer into the space and process and releasing limited edition product whenever I could, for whatever reason I wanted.”

She just smiled and said, “Well then why don’t you do just that….?” Long pause mixed with a daunting “ah-ha” moment…...and then for the next hour, we brainstormed all the fun CHC could have by getting out of the box and staying out of the box. Needless to say, it was a pivotal coffee date  that I walked away from feeling so refreshed and revived, knowing I had ALOT of work to do but so excited to do it!

The main inspiration for the designs of the bags:
As an accessories business, we have the ability to be season-less. We decided to go against the norm of the fashion seasons that put such hefty demands on the backend and instead to slow the process down and put time and thought into each piece.  I wanted to provide my customer with product that was clean, fresh and timeless; product that they could truly invest in and have for years to come.  I removed the distinct separation lines between a men's collection and a women's collection and am putting it out there as a collection for my customer (male or female) to feel the freedom to purchase whatever product they are drawn to. 
CHC's Chelli Look hand gesture
Knowledge gained as a small business owner:
Owning a small business is an ever evolving process....there's no equation or formula to follow. I'm learning that it demands an excessive amount of drive and resilience. During this particular season, I have been learning to let go of other's expectations of how my business should be growing or maneuvering and staying solid to my vision and mission. To be a business that sources domestically, remains handmade, and puts time and money back into the community is an anomaly in the fashion industry but it's what I truly believe in and also provides the ability to connect more with the customer and invite them in, to invest in the process.
The idea and aspects of light featured in the collection:
While seemingly cliche, this collection was named after dawn and dusk because this time of reflection and transition as a company has felt like light coming forth from a season of darkness. The fashion industry is morphing too quickly for the "business as usual" mentality that we had adopted. So with us now becoming a direct-to-consumer business, we get to put the customer at the center of our decision making, rightfully so. When this collection began taking shape, it really felt like the dawn--light coming forth. The sun rises every morning, faithfully, but that consistency is never met with monotony, its a bit different and new each time. I am an avid sunrise watcher; dawn and dusk are my favorite times of the day. They are bookends; neither is better than the other, they are of equal necessity but opposites in a way, with some of the most distinctly unique lighting and colors.
CHC's Chelli Look at sewing machine
Changes within the company:
CHC is now a direct-to-consumer business. We have adjusted our backend processes to support this new business skeleton and we could not be more excited about this concentrated focus. Now, instead of having to think about “delivering” well to our customer and big buyers, we are solely focused on our most important buyer...the customer. This however, does not leave out our love and support of small shops, by any means. We believe in the power and need of community, which is why connection is one of our top values. We’ve simply changed our approach. As opposed to the typical wholesale cycle, any shops that you see CHC working with will be on the basis of exclusive collaboration...meaning that we design a capsule collection with that shop that will only be available within that shop and nowhere else. This caters to us as a business being able to work hand in hand with other local businesses but supporting them in (an exclusive) a way that we never could before.
Changes with the product:
To the naked eye, perhaps not much is different. However, we have worked to hand select our (and your) two favorite leathers, black vegetable tanned leather from Horween and a pebble grain leather from Ohio. These two best represent the shape and drape we needed in our newest designs and the texture and quality is unbelievable.

In design, we have strived to provide timeless, thoughtful silhouettes with a CHC edge that carry a unisex feel. With our desire to produce a product that he/she can care for and carry for years to come but always feel fresh and pulled together.

The nitty-gritty:

-All of our edges are finished--this brings a more refined look, less leather fray and forced attention to every angle and edge of the product while in production. Think of it as “quality control” throughout every step of production.

-Our new way of cinching with the straps provides extra security in carrying as well as a way for some of the designs to transform.

-(Coated) brass findings provide added strength and durability at the most-used joints of the product.

-Keep your eyes peels for the potential of some color;-)

CHC's Chelli Look at work table smiling

 Uncompromising certainties:

Our mission/vision/values are immovable. We are still USA sourced, Chicago made and a Giving Company. Timeless product, produced to last. Our customer’s experience is still of utmost importance but now even moreso than ever before.

At CHC, we value INTEGRITY through responsible business practices and conscious consumerism.

We cultivate JOY. The fashion industry is full of heavy topics, sweat-worthy deadlines, and high standards. We must make joy a priority to continue in excellence.

We pursue CONNECTION. We are nothing without community.

We prioritize FREEDOM by encouraging ideas to flow freely from all levels within the company. There is something to be learned from everyone.

We are building a LEGACY as we lay the foundation for a better fashion industry.

…..also, we make killer bags.



As we build our relationship(s) with our customers and continue to receive more  feedback, our product will evolve to better suit your needs. “When you know better, do better.”


Photos by: Rachel Loewen


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