As twenty-somethings in the creative industry, we find that there is no structured path, when it comes to securing our dream job. Yes University does help, but it is the first step because we all know when you graduate, the real work begins. Yet somehow we push the fact that it may take until the end of time to achieve our goals to the back of our minds, as we dive into the pool of free labour and uncertainty. But Cherelle Brown, Accessories Designer and Founder of unisex bag line IAMQING gives us hope, showing that we have the power to create our own opportunities instead of waiting for them to approach us which is very much what we believe in. As we style a few looks with her latest collection Cherelle tells us how much family plays a big part in supporting your dream. For she believes that taking risks and remaining humble are a few keys to gaining success.
Tell us a bit about where and what you studied.
I studied the Cordwainers Accessories (BA) Course at LCF (London College of Fashion). The course entailed a lot of sketching, drawing and creating your own designs, which then went into a design development on Photoshop and iIllustrator. I did a lot of research on trends, and tested a lot of materials, mostly leathers, basically four years of studying the nooks and crannies of handbags.
Accessories is a very specified course, in terms of Fashion Design. What made you choose that course?
I never expected to study accessories as a course; I was in my foundation year at LCF. The foundation course was recommended to me because it gives you a taster of all the different courses you could do at the University. I started the year thinking that I wanted to do womenswear, but then I was kind of persuaded by my tutor that accessories was the right way to go if you wanted to get a job as a designer in the industry (maybe she was a bit biased as well because she was an accessories tutor). She also told me that the course also does a placement year, so it gave you a chance to get into the industry whilst you’re at university, whereas womenswear at my uni didn’t offer that.
1st Outfit- Jacket Reiss, Turtleneck Uniqlo, Trousers River Island, Loafers Schuh
Would you say that becoming a bag designer was not your original passion until you actually started the course?
I didn’t realise how many different areas there were within handbags, and so it kind of turned into my passion. I would say the first year I wasn’t really into it, but as I got into my second year, my passion for designing handbags really blossomed.
IAMQING, is the name of your bag line. What is IAMQING, and where did the name come from?
I didn’t actually know that I wanted to go forward with my own brand until I finished university. In my final year we created our own project, and I started looking at the universe, galaxy and space as I’m quite into horoscopes and planets. I looked back into the Roman era when they described Jupiter as the ‘King of the Planets’ because it was the largest planet of all. I really liked the idea of Kingship and royalty however I am a strong believer in equality. Even though I liked that it was seen as the ruler of all planets I thought they should be equal and I wanted to make it an equal accessories brand that wasn’t just about men or just about women, but a brand that catered to both. I thought about King and Queen, Male and Female and I came up with the name IAMQING, a combination of King and Queen. I think men and women are the same, we’re all human at the end of the day, and that’s why I decided to launch a unisex brand.
So you’ve graduated last year, what have you been up to since then?
When I graduated I found it hard to get a job as an Accessories designer. I applied for many positions but the responses I received stated that that I needed more experience. I really wanted to just continue designing so I was so happy when someone approached me from the London Garment Expo asking me if they could sponsor me to have a stand at their exhibition, I was really grateful that someone found an interest in my work! so I had an exhibition of the new designs I created, a new range which was an updated collection of what I did in my final year. My friends helped me shoot a lookbook and I publicised it as much as I could.
During that specific time a designer, Lulu Liu contacted me and said that she saw images of my work on the LCF website, ‘LCF showtime’. She said that she really liked my final year collection and that she wanted me to do a collaboration with her and design the whole of her accessories range for her Womenswear brand which would be showcased at London Fashion Week at London Fashion Scout.
When I was younger I worked for Super Super Magazine, and I got to help out with their fashion show at London Fashion Scout, and I was like ‘OMG one day I want to have my own stuff shown at London Fashion Scout’ so when she mentioned it, I was like YES!!! So when I was doing my exhibition, I was also creating a line for her and when I designed the bags, literally like a week after my exhibition, my bags were on the catwalk at LFW.
I was so happy it was literally such an amazing year for me. When I graduated I had no idea that this is what I would do, I thought I would get an accessories designer job but I did none of that but I’m so happy with what I did do.
How did it feel when you were sitting front row at the Lulu Liu show watching the models sashaying down the catwalk with your bags?
I was so happy I wanted to cry, but nothing would come out, I was so in shock, it was everything that I wanted and more, it was like…. Mad because everything had happened so soon for me. I never even imagined something like that would happen to me it was an amazing feeling that I can’t explain.
You went to Paris as well?
Yes I did (chuckles, eyes widens and smiles, she looks like she forgot). Lulu featuring my bags in her show was already enough to make my year. She also did a trade show in Paris, which she asked me to attend because the bags would be there. I was over the moon.I went to Paris as soon as possible, quit my job, which was the most insane thing to do because I had no money, but they wouldn’t give me any more holiday. I was there with my best friend and my family came out as well to see the ‘Zip Zone Trade Show.’
There were other upcoming designers there as well, which was cool. I was just so happy that it was a collaboration, which meant I also got recognition for my work. I got to wear my bags around Paris as well and see other designers work at various trade shows. People asked to take photos of the bags which was really cool and such an amazing experience. When I came back I had no money so I had to find another job, I went into customer service at Jack Wills, whilst I applied for other jobs.
I applied for a job as a Visual Merchandiser at Aspinal, but they got back to me and asked if I would prefer more of a design role because of my previous experience. I went for 2 interviews and they offered me the job on their design team! The catch was that it wasn’t in London. So now I’ve been commuting to West Sussex, which is really exciting, I know I’m going to learn a lot.
2nd Outfit- Suit River Island, Shirt River Island, Loafers Schuh, Scarf Uniqlo, Glasses Bailey Nelson
At the London Garment Expo, I saw that your family were there, how have they been during your journey?
My family have always been there for me, even before and during uni – they’ve been supportive of what I’ve wanted to do. Especially when I got the opportunity to go to Paris. When I had problems with my job and getting time off, I considered not going but my parents urged me to go telling me that it was an amazing opportunity and that I had to go. There comes a time where you have to decide on what you want to do and make the sacrifices to do it. They’re always 100% behind me and I’m blessed to have them by me in all that I do.
As a creative and someone that’s born and bred in London. We often feel that to make it in the creative industry you have to be in London. Have you ever considered moving abroad or do you feel everything is here in London?
From my time in Paris, it has definitely opened my mind to travelling and working abroad. I also met a lady at the London Garment Expo that told me that she could really see my brand doing well in France or Spain, so I have actually considered trying to pursue IAMQING in a different country.
3rd Outfit-T-shirt –River Island, Jumper Bershka, Jeans Topman, Trainers New Balance
4th- T-shirt Versus Bag from IAMQING
Do you have any regrets or things you wish you did or didn’t do in terms of your career or in life?
As a young designer especially as a young woman trying to make it in the creative industry, what advice would you give to those aspiring creatives out there?
For young women, don’t ever think that you can’t do anything because you’re a woman, that is madness to me. I’d give the same advice to a guy too really? There’s no difference to me. Always know that no matter who you are, you’re equal to everyone. Even if someone has more money than you, or seems like they’re doing better things than you, do not compare. We’re all going through different chapters in our lives; don’t EVER compare yourself to anyone else. Be who you want to be and always remember most importantly, that you’re not better than anyone else, remain humble.