As a teen from south central Pennsylvania, aka Amish Country, I used to model clothes for nursing home residents in seasonal fashion shows. The clothes were bulky and unflattering, but I had fun and worked the runway. I did the shows alongside sisters Sarah and Claire. Truth is, our mothers both worked in the nursing home and signed us up as volunteers. Sarah is now walking the runway in a different style. She is owner and designer of her own fashion line. Sarah created CHICASUAL, a line of clothes for the free-minded, gypsy-spirited, dynamic woman. Her signature pieces are tunic tops for women. Her fashionable yet practical tunic designs are perfect for the clinician who wants to feel comfortable and confident at work.
CHICASUAL is designing clothes with the modern women in mind. Their specialty is designing tunics, which are perfect for work in schools or clinics. With CHICASUAL, you do not need to choose between being comfortable OR fashionable at work; you can be both! You can have floor time or demonstrate exercises without worrying about pulling down your shirt or exposing your back to your clients. The clothes at CHICASUAL are all made in the USA from high quality fabrics that are designed to last. Her vivid colors and sleek designs can be worn in the therapy clinic and easily transitioned to evening activities with the family or friends.
I am thrilled to share my interview with Sarah and learn more from a woman entrepreneur.
1. What motivated you to create CHICASUAL?
CHICASUAL is a portmanteau of the words chic and casual and inspired by almost a decade of experience in the fashion industry. It originally took shape when I was working as an account executive for a corporate fashion brand and I noticed that a huge demographic of women was being overlooked. I dislike labels, so I like to describe this demographic as women between the ages of Forever21 and Drapers & Damons (similar to the clothing we modeled at the nursing home). Women in this demographic are highly aware of their unique body shape and look for attractive and functional fashions with a figure flattering silhouette. They enjoy a fashionable look as long as it’s practical enough for their “real” priorities such as career, family, or traveling the world.
2. Was it easy to get started?
Not in the slightest! It took about two years of working full time, surveying this demographic, and creating test samples until I was confident I was solving a problem within this niche. It was also during these two years that I became more familiar with the manufacturing process and the social and economic importance of creating an American made product. It was also either this or going back to Amish country!
3. What inspired your collection of beautiful tunics?
Well tunics are great because they cover those tricky pant waistlines. Our signature length is longer than most tops and shorter than a traditional tunic (which typically falls much lower than your bum, making you look short). Some of our tunic tops feature practical details such as hidden pockets to avoid digging for your smartphone in your jeans pocket. I can attest that it’s a lifesaver during trade shows! I also wanted to create a product that is flattering for many body types. We try to avoid fabrics that are “clingy” and offer silhouettes that are more A-line, not boxy.
You can thank stubbornness for the vibrant colors and prints. When working with department store buyers in the past, the reaction to bold colors and prints was always the same, “Prints are too personal,” to which I opposed because the point is to get personal. All of our prints are hand picked with the intention of making the wearer feel happy and confident.
4. Why is CHICASUAL ideal for women who travel?
When packing for a trip, I try to choose clothing that is easy to clean, comfortable for long flights, and not tricky to match with other items in my suitcase. All of our tops are machine washable and paired fabulously with your favorite jeans. Also, our knit tops are so ridiculously soft; they are the closest things to wearing pajamas on a long flight.
5. What advice would you give to anybody thinking about starting their own business?
In the last year since launching CHICASUAL, I have literally shed blood, sweat, (many) tears, and don’t regret a single minute of it. I recommend to anyone thinking of starting a business to ask themselves two things: First, is this something that will make you happy, and second, is your product/service truly benefiting or solving a problem for someone else? Without these two things I don’t think it would be possible. Also, the best advice I’ve received came from my business coach, “Perfect is great, but done is better”. Often when you are starting a business, you are just a party-of-one with a huge to-do list. The best policy is to worry more about crossing off your goals and moving forward rather than getting stuck trying to perfect one task (ahem, website). If you want things perfect, outsource it to someone on Fiverr or Upwork.
6. You spent a lot of time volunteering in nursing homes as a kid. Are there any lessons that your learned or anything that inspired you from your volunteer work that has influenced or shaped your life?
Absolutely! Specifically, I remember volunteering in the dementia unit at the nursing home. I had to create activities from scratch that would be easy, sensory, and inclusive to the group. It taught me a valuable lesson in patience and ingenuity. I have been a volunteer my whole life so I can honestly say I wouldn’t be who I am today without it. I do not see a purpose if I’m not doing something that helps someone else.
Thank you to Sarah for her awesome interview and beautifully designed clothes! It is a pleasure to share the stories of women entrepreneurs. To view the CHICASUAL collection check out: https://chicasual.com/ Follow on social media: Instagram @_chicasual, Facebook and Pinterest
Photography compliments of CHICASUAL
Featured image tunic available for purchase HERE
Blue women’s tunic top available for purchase HERE