After a decade spent working for big brands and representing flashy labels, NATALIE CHOW, decided to step back and start on the right footing. Together with her husband, she developed a chic and conscious sneaker brand called, KIBO. She recalls, “I became jaded and was frustrated to see consumers paying for something of very little value besides brandish logos.” As soon as she launched her brainchild in 2019, she set out to create positive footprints for people and the planet.
In this week’s WOMEN OF PEARL feature, Natalie shares how from a small business she has managed to a more mindful and conscious way of consuming fashion.
- What keeps you busy these days?
Being an entrepreneur, mother to two little boys. You will know what I mean if you are a mom-preneur, too. We’re also working on a new collection for Q3. In the midst of it all, my physical and mental wellbeing also takes priority to keep my energy levels up.
- How did you come to find your current career or life’s work?
Having worked at big corporations with flashy brand names, I became jaded and was frustrated to see consumers paying for something of very little value besides the brandish logo. With the help and support of my loving husband, I took the plunge. I started my own sneaker brand in 2019, KIBO (formerly known as Lacess). Our vision is to tie women together and offer shoes that do good to people and the planet.
We craft simple, high-quality sneakers from leather trimmings, post-consumer plastics and other eco-friendly material. At the same time, we give back to help victims of modern slavery.
- What is it about your work or career that you enjoy most?
Everything! I love how everyone is rocking sneakers with everything now—from jeans to dresses. What excites me the most is how brands, big and small, are becoming more transparent about their practices. This is because our customers are becoming more discerning, demanding and most of all, conscious!
- What do you consider to be “hazards of the job?”
Production. We stand at a very difficult position as a small brand. Our quantities are much smaller but our requirements remain high. We want our materials to be sustainable and transparent. Our team does not compromise on superb quality, and yet, we aim to give the most reasonable pricing. Hence, there is usually a delay in production. Our suppliers naturally prioritize other projects with bigger orders. Hopefully, we’ll be able to expand soon so we can hold a weightier position with our producers.
- For women who aspire for similar careers, what would be your advice?
Don’t ever fight anything alone. If you are planning to start a business, throw yourself out there and talk to people – not just your friends, but strangers who would give you unbiased opinions
- What are the career milestones that inspire you to break the glass or mold?
Being in Hong Kong, we are lucky to be surrounded by fellow female founders who are unbelievably helpful, supportive and uplifting. The first “mini milestone” I set for myself was to hit my first 10 happy customers! Note my use of the term, “happy.” As little as this may sound, it’s so important as an entrepreneur to ensure that customers are happy with every step of the shopping experience with KIBO. It also means so much when they tell me about how proud they are to wear our shoes!
As a small startup, it’s extremely important to build that loyal customer base. They are the patrons who will grow with you and cheer you on.
- How do you balance work and family life? What are activities that enable you to bond with family?
This is a tough one for me with two very young kids and two very new startups to run. I remind myself constantly about things that matters the most: relationships, health, wellbeing. I always carve out time to play with my children. This time spent allows me to bond, model, and teach them in ways that are fun and memorable.
- How do you unwind or rewind? Any favorite spots in your current city that you consider as your me-time haven?
I try to sweat it out. Running takes my mind off the never-ending to-do lists, and the satisfaction after a workout is simply the best. Fave spots? My bedroom!
- How would you describe your personal style? What are three your wardrobe essentials
I’m a casual-chic kind of girl and I tend to dress down on most occasions. My three wardrobe essentials include jeans, white sneakers, and gold hoops. This pretty much sums it up!
- What makes for a good investment piece? Kindly cite examples of pieces in your current wardrobe.
Timeless designs, well-crafted and versatile pieces suited for daily wear. For me it’s a Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra necklace. It’s classic and elegant, yet versatile enough to wear even with jeans.
- What do pearls mean to you?
I think a lot of women like me would associate it with our wedding day. It captures that special moment when my mother clasps the pearl necklace close as a final touch before walking down the aisle. It’s a significant moment to remember, and I hope to be able to pass them down someday, too!