We recently interviewed Ching, the owner and designer of L.A.R.K to find out more about her background, her entrepreneurial journey and what it takes to run a successful small business from home. We learned that she grew up in Seremban and started sewing her own bags when she was in primary school. After obtaining her university degree, Ching worked as a music producer before starting her own fashion label called L.A.R.K, which stands for Life Is A Real Kaleidoscope. Here’s more!
Ching, owner and designer of L.A.R.K
- What made you decided to turn your hobby into a business?
Many years ago, I ran an online blogshop selling garments and accessories and fell in love with the whole affair of running an online business. From packing the items to the runs to the post office to receiving emails from happy customers, it made me chirpy like a squirrel on nuts. Of course, it wasn’t all sugar and spice, but I knew I enjoyed it. One day it occurred to me that I could marry that hobby with another hobby I’ve had since I was young — sewing things! I wasn’t sure if it’d work, but hey, life’s too short to wonder. So I just did it.
- What inspires you when creating your designs?
Will it be strange if I say that I don’t really know? Haha. I love classic lines, simplicity, but most of all I love colour. Anything that has colour has life in it, and they call out to me. It could be a page off a cookbook, a magazine, a Youtube video, or someone walking down the street in the most amazing coloured skirt. Colours stir something within me, and I try my best to do the same with the things that I design.
A spread of eye candy colours (Photo credit: Ching)
- What materials do you use in your designs? Are they difficult to work with?
I use a lot of pleather, which is an animal-friendly alternative to leather. Like leather, it isn’t the most forgiving material to work with — a wrongly-positioned stitch leaves permanent holes in the pleather which do not self-heal like regular fabric. Due to the thickness of the pleather, sometimes the layers of pleather can get too bulky to be fed through a regular home machine. I learned this the hard way, so I invested in an industrial sewing machine that could produce better stitches on the thick material.
- Do you have a favourite piece from your collections?
I do, it’s the Little Zebra wristlet! I take mine everywhere, from vacations to a run to the grocery store. I love the wristlets for their practicality and the pop of colour they give to any outfit.
- What is your favourite part about being the owner of L.A.R.K?
Posting out items to countries I hope to visit one day, knowing that a piece of me has made it to the other side of the world.
- What do you consider the most challenging about running your own business?
Multi-tasking! From sewing to marketing to sourcing to keeping up on social media, sometimes I really do wish I was an octopus. Though that may freak my husband out.
- What are the perks of being ‘self employed’ (self motivating) and have you ever look longingly at people with ‘normal’ jobs?
Perks.. Ok hmm this is a tough question… I er, don’t have to wear shoes to work? Hahaha. I definitely have those moments where I miss having a 9 to 5 job, I can’t deny that. There are perks, but I feel that they always come with a price. For example, one of the perks is being able to fill my workspace with things that inspire me, me, and ME. But it also means I have to spend time doing all the decorating myself…. oh snap.
- What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of starting a business?
Don’t romanticise it too much! Be practical.. there are still bills that need to be paid. Most of the time, starting a small business means you’ll have to do a lot of things yourself and working long hours, so don’t expect a smooth happy sail. A good product is nothing if nobody knows about it. It’s a lot of hard work getting a small business out there, so manage your own expectations or you may risk burning out fast.
- What are your plans / ideas for the future? What can your fans expect next?
I’m currently working on the next collection of bags. They are inspired by the traveller who’s young at heart… I’m so excited about it! I would love to teach people how to make their own bags in the future. I’ve found a lot of joy having a sewing machine at home, and if people want to discover that joy too, I would love to share my knowledge.
- And finally, if you could pick any celebrities to wear your creations, who would you pick?
Grace Chatto, the cellist of Clean Bandit.. I recently saw their videos online and I’m just absolutely smitten by her dance moves. She’s so adorkable I can’t handle it! But I wouldn’t want her to just carry a L.A.R.K bag to an awards show once like she did with her controversial fish bag. I hope her L.A.R.K bag will be something she’ll use often and a lot, because that’s what L.A.R.K bags are made to do.
The members of Clean Bandit, from left: Luke Patterson (drums), Jack Patterson (bass, sax, decks), Grace Chatto (strings) and Milan Neil Amin-Smith (strings) [Photo credit: Justin Sutcliffe @independent.co.uk]