In 2009 Kate Chan took a year off from her 26-year career in finance and real estate and embarked on a journey across Asia. The trip inspired her to create one-of-a-kind sustainable accessories which at the same time lifted artisans out of poverty.
Her handwoven accessories, clutches, purses, and jewelry are in Kate Chan’s own words “unique, different, fun, accessible and affordable.” Chan explains she has used the right and left side of her brain by drawing on her business experience as well as the creative side to establish her brand which officially launched this year.
Kate Chan’s passion for creating her brand has been in the works since 2010. Chan’s goal with her lines was not to follow the trends but to create something unique. “The fashion industry is over saturated, it’s fleeting, trendy. That’s not what Kate Chan is all about. I’m using fashion as a platform,” she explained in her office/boutique/showroom in Coronado.
The first steps to start her business in 2010 consisted of testing markets, conducting product development, working with brand consultants, attending fashion shows, and doing photo shoots. “It has taken three-and-a-half years to get it to where it is today. That process has helped me focus on the brand and to define the brand identity,” she said.
Kate Chan was born in the Philippines but lived in the U.S. most of her life. Yet she has never forgotten where she is from. Her creations are a blend of East and West influences.
Owning one of her pieces gives a woman a special feeling with a message she explained. “[Kate Chan is] uniquely different, meaningful, thought provoking, accessible line that is a celebration of giving back, sustainability and making a difference.”
“You feel the work of the hands, feel the indirect part of my vision, purpose and passion,” Chan said. Her tag line is “luxury redefined” which to her means giving back, making a difference.
Her cell phone stores over 10,000 photos she uses to show the process of making her clutches - from the fibers to the artisans’ hands doing the work. Chan showed pictures of the garbage sites where some of the artisans lived before they were hired to work on her products. “My goal is to restore their pride, restore their dignity,” she said. Chan travels to the Philippines and East Asia where her creations are made about three times a year. She has training teams in place that help the local artisans with the designs.
In her sustainable creations, Chan utilizes items that would otherwise be discarded. At a furniture factory she noticed leftover fibers on the ground. “Think outside the box. What can we do with leftover pieces? What are the people good at? Weaving,” she explained. Out of those leftover fibers she created embellishments. The recycled furniture fibers, were handwoven and up cycled into fashion accessories and used as embellishments for earrings, necklaces, key rings, bracelets and anklets. On a trip to Japan she realized the leftover obi material used for kimonos could be used for her clutches. In the Kate Chan line everything has a place and a purpose.
Although Kate Chan focuses on accessories she offers colorful knitted and crocheted tops, versatile wraps and shirt dresses with vintage designs. Other items include her new headbands - a must have with lots of embellishments. Her “happy bags” are playful, colorful and made out of raffia. Her clutches incorporate exotic woods and polished shells - products of the sea and earth. She estimated her line is 85 percent sustainable. Natural fibers used in her lines are banana bark, raffia, palm leaves and pineapple fibers. Even leftover fibers from her clutches become bracelets. “We use everything in an intelligent way, down to the bit of the fiber. She considers herself a creative visionary rather than a designer and describes her vision as visceral, coming from within.
Her lines are currently carried at the Halekulani Hotel in Hawaii, Shop at 2210 in La Jolla and Dream Markets International in Chicago. Her current goal is to “seek and firm up strategic distribution channels by way of established e-commerce sites in fashion segments, hotels, resorts, cruise lines,” she said. Chan is also currently involved in explorative talks with some major retailers. Chan also recently finished a photo shoot at Central Beach in Coronado to promote her line.
Next door to her showroom Chan opened Kate Chan Salon of Beauty and Wellness this past April, a full service, hair, nail and skin care. “This was an opportunity that came to me totally unplanned,” she said. The salon is modern, airy and bright.”
In her previous career she used to help people’s dreams of home ownership come true. In this new career there is a similarity. “It’s being part of a dream, lifting lives, making a difference with job opportunities using sustainable materials, helping save the environment, helping women think differently being beautiful from the inside out.”
Kate Chan showroom is located at 1014 Park Place. For private showings call (619) 708-1948
To see the Kate Chan lines log onto www.katechan.me