Amanda Chapman is a #girlboss with vigour, a woman that knows how to go after what she wants and one that is taking the fashion industry by storm. House of Coco have been following Amanda’s journey with her brand, House of Adnama, for some time now and we have watched her expand and grow an idea in to a successful, internationally recognised brand. She has done this whilst wearing many more hats including life as a single mum.
We wanted to find out more about her journey to becoming who she is today so we spent some time chatting with her about all things House of Adnama. Here’s what she had to say…
Tell us a bit about House of Adnama and your journey to getting where you are today?
House of Adnama initially started out as a women contemporary brand that was launched in 2012. The brand since then has evolved into a men and women contemporary brand that features something fun, unique and different each season.
At a young age I always knew that I wanted to do something related to the arts. I always had a fascination with drawing and bright colours. I took a break after High School and didn’t attend college until I was 21. During my 3rd semester I got pregnant and dropped out. To make ends meet, I ventured back into what I did since the age of 14, retail. For the most part I enjoyed my job, it came easy to me. As with most things however, when it becomes too easy, I get bored and need a challenge. It was that time that I decided to get back into school and complete what I started. In 2007 I enrolled into college majoring in visual communication which is a fancy way of saying graphic design. I absolutely loved it. I was able to work on real world projects and apply much of what I was learning in my work as a department supervisor. I was really great at print design and layout and started the process of brainstorming to create my own fashion magazine.
About 3 months before graduating a co-worker/friend Daina Howell ask me have I ever thought about doing fashion design. Apparently many of my co-workers thought that fashion design was my major because of the way I carried myself. I hadn’t considered designing fashion before then but soon realised that fashion was my true passion. It was fashion that actually inspired me to want to design magazines and I soon realised that I wanted to design the fashion that went into the magazines.
I took what I learned during my studies as a graphic designer and applied them to fashion. I knew absolutely nothing about starting my own fashion brand and running a company. If I’m being completely honest, there is much about the business that I’m still learning. I can tell you that I do a lot of research and learn by trial and error. In doing research, I learned the next step was to get samples made. I ventured onto LinkedIn and posted a message asking could anyone create 9 samples for me. By the grace of God, Raj Arora of Farisha Exports responded to my post. He could tell I had no clue as to what I was talking about. He invited me to his county in India and said that he could provide me fabrics, production, samples and all the things that went in between. I was nervous and scared to say the least but after talking to my friend Daina and my mom, I decided it was a risk worth taking. Five years later, I can confirm that it was one of the most wonderful and calculated risk that I have ever made. Raj has acted as my mentor, friend, and business partner. I visit India every year for my fabric and production needs.
What has been your highlight since launching the brand?
It seems as though each achievement in my career has been a highlight. If I had to name one thing, I would have to say recognition as the brand evolves into something bigger and better each year. I wouldn’t say I made mistakes, I would say I learned lessons. When I first started, I was all over the place. I didn’t have themes, colour palettes and I wasn’t telling a story. I was just designing what I thought people wanted. It wasn’t until I used the feedback from publishers, buyers, and my market that I started to really pay attention to those important details. Capturing my markets attention and being able to provide them with something versatile, unique, and wearable has been my biggest highlight. People are starting to notice the difference and compliment me on listening and designing what the people want.
Describe the brand in 3 words?
Versatile, colourful and evolving.
Your collections follow different themes, what was the inspiration for the s/s16 theme?
I love creating stories. I have a huge imagination and daydream a lot. Many of my collections are birthed based on a personality of a character from one of my many daydreams and music. And yes, they even have their own theme songs. This collection was inspired by the planets. The browns, khaki’s and reds were inspired by the planet Jupiter and the blues, oranges and purples by Neptune. If life occupied those planets this is my interpretation of what they would dress like based on their personalities.
Tell us about your ideal customer?
ADNAMA’s customers are between the ages of 21-35. They are daring, enjoy wearing genderless clothing, and have an affinity for fun artistic prints and textures. He/she are very down to earth and eccentric. They are confident and support freedom and self expression. ADNAMA’s customers value life experiences and memorable moments. You may spot them at a concert, art show, restaurant, grand opening, charity events, hanging with friends and plastered all over social media and magazine covers.
Who is involved in the brand?
Myself: CEO/ Creative Director/Designer ( I wear many hats)
Raj Arora: Owner of Farisha Exports and in charge of sourcing production teams
Kantilal, Chirag and Alpesh Dashadia: Charmi Creations in charge of tailoring
Kate Biddle, Audrey Cline, Jason Ligon, and Alicia Connor: Faces of ADNAMA (Models)
Celeste Westhaven: Westhaven/Smart Model Management: (provider of models and collaborations)
Jordan Blyden: Aura Exposures Photography (brands personal photographer)
Tia Williams (brands personal hairstylist)
Constance Madden, Emma Rumps, Gisehel Chavez and Dustin Lazenby (brands personal makeup artists)
Albert, Phyllis and Nicole Appling: Dad, Mom and Sister, my biggest support group and brand ambassadors. None of this would be possible without them. They help with taking care of my son while I’m traveling around the world to market and promote the brand. They share information about the brand to anyone that will listen as well as act as personal promoters for any show/event that I’m involved in.
Tell us what a typical day in your life looks like?
I wish I could tell you that fashion is my full time job, but sadly that is not the case. Not yet anyway, being able to do fashion full time is my ultimate goal. I’m a single parent as well as an emerging designer which means I have to wear many hats and maintain a regular job to continue to maintain and fund my career as a brand and fashion designer and provide a roof over our head and food to eat for my 11 year old son Omari who eats me out of house and home. So here goes. My day starts at 5:00 AM. I have to get Omari up and ready for school. From 6-7 I workout, I believe in staying fit and healthy. My workout also give me time to think and breakdown my objectives for the day. 7-8 shower and get ready for work. 8-9:30 I’m on the bus/train in route to work in which I’m networking and completing any projects that was left undone from the previous day. 9:30-10 I’m responding to emails and following up with whatever fashion project I’m working on. 10-7PM I’m doing regular job duties. During down time, breaks and lunches at work I’m sketching, creating fashion CADS, marketing via social media, creating ads for the brand, researching concepts for the new collection. 7pm-8:30 pm I’m on the train headed home, during the time in which I respond to more emails, plan trips, work out any operations needed for upcoming shoots and editorials. 8:30PM-11:30PM I cook and iron for the next day, put together looks for editorials/shows, and complete whatever tasked I’ve given myself on my to do list pertaining to my fashion business. I repeat the cycle everyday except on my off days from my regular job. Off days are reserved for editorials, fashion shows, fittings, casting, travel or to focus on behind the scenes operations of the fashion business.
I wanted to break my day down so you can get a realistic image of what an emerging designer goes through. It’s not all glitz and glamour. It’s a lot of hard work and sacrifices that goes on behind the scenes. This is the life I chose for myself because I’m passionate about my craft, my brand and my fashion to the point where it doesn’t feel like work. There are times when I have to force myself to take a break or go to sleep because my brain is on overload with so many concepts and ideas. Yes there is a lot of work that goes into it but the outcome is so beautiful. It’s rare that people have the chance to say that they love their career. My only hang up is I wish I could do this full time. But with patience, networking, prayer and staying positive lies the key to success. Knowing that someday soon, someone will realise the potential in me and the brand and offer to invest and help take my career to the next level.
Before the company launched, what did you do on the work front?
I worked as a department supervisor at JCPenney. Once aspect that I enjoyed about working in retail for so many years, is that it gave me insight. I was able to see firsthand the coming and going of trends. I also got the chance to talk and listen to customers about what was lacking in today’s market. I got an inside look of what they were looking for but was not finding.
You are going to be showcasing at NYFW in September, what is it like preparing for a show?
I can’t speak for every designer as I’m sure we all have our own routines but with me it starts with a story. I have to ask myself, what type of story am I telling. Listening to music inspires the collection lineup. I hang the garments on my wall in the order in which I want them to come down the runway. Next is the model selection. I choose the 4 faces of ADNAMA first, then reach out to Westhaven/Smart model management for the remaining models. I conduct fittings at my home studio to ensure each model chosen has the garment that compliments the brand and the model best. If its an out of state show, I have to fit the night or the morning of the show at the venue or hotel room. Once models are chosen, it’s hair and makeup time. I love this part as it creates the entire theme for the runway and collection. I love opting for anything odd and quirky. Styling is next, Pinterest has been my best friend on this aspect. I create mood boards and send them out to models, hairstylists and makeup. This way everyone can be on the same page as to what’s needed in their model bags. Last but not least is music. I listen to just about everything with electronic, alternative and dance being my favourite. It takes me months to find the right music. I want to be different from everyone else and purposely choose not to play whatever is trending on the radio because you run the risk of having the same music as another designer in the lineup, which in my opinion is not a good look. Of course I also have to arrange travel and hotel accommodations as well in advance to ensure budget friendly travels.
Who/what inspires you?
I’m inspired by so many things. It all depends on my mood at the time. I love music, literature, odd shapes, bright colours, culture and fantasy. Designers that I look up to is Henry Holland of House of Holland, Dsquared2, Etro and Clover Canyon.
Are there any sources you go for support with running your business?
Yes. I like to pick people brains, especially fellow emerging designers. We share our hits and misses and try to help each other out as best we can. My campus president Tira Clay, SCORE which help startup business for free, Connections from LinkedIn and any networking events that I’m able to attend.
What are your plans for the brand in 2016?
My goal for 2016 is to gain brand exposure and to share with my market why ADNAMA is the brand for them. ADNAMA is more than a brand, it’s a lifestyle. The garments are designed for both men and women. It’s different, artsy, chic and versatile. I want my consumers to know that the collection is designed in such a way that you can wear it for spring/summer but can easily transition to the fall. There are so many ways you can mix and match and layer the pieces in the collection, creating a variety of alternating looks and endless possibilities.
Another goal is to take the brand to an international level. I’ve been invited to participate in big shows during NYFW, Vancouver Fashion Week, Oxford Fashion Week in London and LA Fashion Week. It’s such an honor to be invited by all of these companies to participate in their fashion weeks. Unfortunately as an emerging designer I’m not able to fund a show on my salary by myself just yet, I need help. On average, the cost to participate in these shows asks for a minimum cost of $6000-$12000.00 to participate. My goal this year is to gain sponsorships needed to be able to participate in these shows and grow the ADNAMA brand on an international level.
Did you always know that one day you would be a #Girlboss?
I can’t say that I did. In my case it kind of just happened. I found something that I was passionate about. I got a taste of what it feels like to have your dream turned into reality. Once you get that taste, it’s hard to settle for anything less appetising. Tasting that success motivates me to keep moving towards my dream and never giving up no matter how hard it gets. The thought of giving up is unacceptable to me, I’ve come to far to allow someone else to take the wheel and control my destiny and my life.
If there’s one #Girlboss activity you could get better at, what would it be?
Being able to balance work and family at the same time. As an emerging brand there are some sacrifices that have to be made in order to reach your end game. There are times that you miss out on that family fun time with your loved ones. It’s a difficult process, one that I’m still trying to manage. There are times when you feel guilty because you feel selfish for missing chunks of time out of your child(s) life. Being able to dedicate if not a full day at least a few hours with my loved ones is something that I wish I could get better at and is something that I’m constantly working on ways to achieve.
For people aspiring to run their own company, what advice would you give?
Turn your negatives into positives. I believe everything happens for a reason and we learn from not only our trails but from the trails of others. Network, listen and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Do your research before you approach and make sure you have you I’s dotted and your T’s crossed. You will receive a lot of no’s in the beginning, but don’t let this detour you. Find out why you were told no, fix the problem, and get out there and try again. Pursue something that you’re truly passionate about and don’t let the ideal of making big money be your only motivation. If it is you are more likely to get detoured when you don’t make the amount of money you expected in the time frame you allotted. Choose a business that you are passionate about and money as well as success will soon follow.
Follow Amanda’s journey…