Fashioning Women of Power: Chi The Label

Browsing through Chi the Label’s latest designer corporate-wear collection, I find myself picturing Audrey Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, Victoria Beckham and Olivia Palermo reclining elegantly in doorways or perched on the end of a chaise lounge in these gorgeous items.

The styling is timelessly elegant – and not in a remote, silver screen kind of way.  Designer Chiquita Searle has managed to bring the spirit of past eras to life in a way that is simultaneously vintage and yet freshly contemporary.

It’s hard to believe that before she moved into the glamorous world of fashion design, Chi had spent most of her career in the grubby and decidedly unglamorous mining industry!

“I studied HR and psychology before starting out as a recruitment consultant and I really loved it,” Chi said of her early career.

“I worked in the mines for a while and realised my heart wasn’t in it,” she said.

“I reassessed what I was wanting to do for myself. Then I went back into recruitment for 15 months and saved all my money and started Chi the Label.”

It was a dramatic side-step but Chi had found her own dream.

“I want to build a multi-million dollar business,” she said matter-of-factly – as though it was the simplest and most obvious ambition in the world.

It’s that brazen intention to succeed that will get her there. She designed her first range and produced an initial run that sold through within the first year. She seemed disappointed as she told me this but I’m impressed. To go from a benchmark of nothing to creating a range that sells out in the first year seems like an ideal outcome. No stale stock cluttering up shelves; just newly released cash ready to be invested back into the business.

Chiquita specialises in investment pieces that are made to order in Australia. What does that mean?

Chi The Label

In her case it means gorgeously tailored stylish pieces that are achingly beautiful that in ten year’s time, you’ll wish you bought two of each in three colours. Her 2013-14 collection shows a maturing identity as a designer and emerging confidence in what her audience want, which she has gained through hours of listening and advising her professional clients via one-on-one and group event styling sessions.

The European influence from her time studying at the Paris Fashion Institute is evident in her designs but the look is stronger and more powerful – befitting the career women she dresses. Don’t be surprised if you hear she’s been dressing the next female Prime Minister or Governor General one day.

Unselfish with her time and talents, Chi has taken on the job of National Operations Manager for the League of Extraordinary Women. In this role she will be able to connect other women to the support and mentoring they need as they pursue their own business dreams.

Meanwhile, her personal goal is to move away from the production logistics side of the business and focus on building the brand into that multi-million dollar operation. She’s setting the bar high. And I think that’s her secret to success. If anyone can get there, Chi can.

Check out Chiquita’s creations at Chi The Label.

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Heather Potter

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