Originally from New York, Stacy Chan worked for many years in the finance industry in NYC, London and Geneva before taking the leap into the world of fashion.
Her love of clutch bags was the foundation for the brand with the intention of creating something unique in the market.
Founded by Stacy Chan in 2013, the eponymous brand takes unique, minimalist construction as a starting point for luxury fashion. Known for its clean lines and geometric shapes paired with bold colour, each handbag is at once classic and modern.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I am originally from New York and studied Finance at MIT before a ten year career in NYC, London and Geneva in investment banking, private equity and a hedge fund. After spending a decade looking at businesses, I decided it was time to take on the challenge of building my own. I took my passion for handbags, enrolled at the London College of Fashion and embarked on the journey of creating my brand.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Working in finance, there is a typical career-path starting from sell-side investment banking before moving to the buy side and working in a fund. I don’t feel like these were consciously planned moves, just a natural progression. The active decisions I made were choosing to move to London, which greatly expanded my horizons and showed me how much possibility was out there, and then choosing to start my own business. That was a difficult decision for me, particularly as I was changing industries after building a decade-long career to do something completely different.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
As a business owner, there are numerous challenges that are constantly at your doorstep. When I first launched the brand, I had production delays from my Italian factories and when my evening bag samples were finally produced, the newest iPhone was launched and was made too large to fit into the clutch bags! After five years, the technical difficulties are less prevalent and the challenges revolve around growth and expansion.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
There are lots of milestones that make me proud and I try to take time to appreciate them as it’s easy to get lost in all there is to do on a daily basis. I was a Finalist for Best Overall Design in the Independent Handbag Designer Awards and won their Pantone Best Use of Colour Award. It was a thrill to be recognised for my designs at an early stage of the brand. The first few times the handbags were featured in the national press or carried by HRHs Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie were also very exciting landmarks.
In general, however, it is surreal to think that something that I drew on a piece of paper is real and the handbags are resonating with people. It’s amazing to meet customers who “love their handbag” and are excited to meet me as the designer.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
I believe that persistence and flexibility go hand in hand when you’re building a business. You need to have faith in what you’re building and be prepared to get a lot of no’s before you start hearing some yes’s. At the same time, it’s also important to listen to feedback and take on board what people say as you can always learn something from every situation and other people’s opinions.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
One of the ways I reach customers is through a collaborative pop-up shop called PLATFORM. We bring together 15-20 independent brands to share the space and through this store, I get to work with many different designers where we discuss the ups and downs of running our own brands and best practices and strategies to move forward. Outside of this, I try to find time to meet with young brands that approach me for advice on how to get started or the next steps to take in growing their business.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
I think awareness and confidence building are crucial for achieving Gender Parity. Sometimes there is unconscious bias present both in the workplace and in the world at large and campaigns that shine a light on the differences that exist are extremely important. The other side of this is that women need to have the confidence to speak up – we can sometimes feel undeserving or less than because maybe we’re not as perfect as we think we should be, but equality shouldn’t require perfection. Women should feel secure enough to ask for what they want and deserve.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
I think that all the choices I have made in my life and career, both good and bad, have led me down this very unlikely path of handbag design. 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.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
In the near term, I am continuing to build the brand and develop new handbag styles with reversible leather bracelets and belts coming from Italy in the coming weeks, and I am designing a “camera bag” for next season. In the future, I would love to expand into making additional accessories like shoes that build upon the distinct design and quality craftsmanship of the brand.