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Designer Files: Lori Chalmers

More and more Toronto designers are realizing that accessories are big business. Lori Chalmers is the brains behind handbag company cha cha Lifestyle. Her collection of one-of-a-kind bags are sure to win over anyone looking for something different and exclusive. I got the chance to ask Lori some questions about her business.

How did you get into handbag design?
It started as a hobby. The first purse I made was to match a red outfit I wanted to wear to a friends birthday party. I went to Good Will, bought a old red leather skirt, took it apart and without a pattern made a bag. Needless to say it was kind of funny looking but it was that purse that sparked my interest.

Your blog follows the creative process at cha cha. What was the reasoning behind presenting the company in blog format?
I feel like I can be closer to my customers this way,since I don't often get to have direct contact with the people who buy cha cha. This way people can stop by and see what it is that I do, things that inspire me or possibly see the way their bags was made. I just felt it was more interactive then a regular website. It's a great way to start out when you have a new business and a low marketing budget.

What are you inspired by?
My inspirations are random. A lot of times it is the things you see everyday in the city. Old houses, graffiti (good graffiti, not "tags"), strangers. My most recent line was inspired by a picture of a dress I ripped out of a magazine years ago.

You sell through Esty.com. What has your experience been like with the site?
I haven't been selling on Etsy for very long but so far so good. Its a great way to reach an international market.

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What advise do you have for new users of Esty?
Have great product shots.

Do you plan to target brick and mortar stores in the future?
I do, I currently sell at Nathalie Roze & Co. but so far that is all. I am looking into the expanding to more stores but I want to keep it selective. I am a one women show so I have to be careful not to put myself in a position where I can not keep up with demand.

Describe your collection?
I describe this seasons collection as warm. Chocolate brown and purple leathers paired with wool and cashmere. There are a lot of personal touches on each piece in this line, lots of layered sewing, graphic prints, zippers and hardware detail.

What's your favorite material(s) to work with?
I love leather, canvas will always be on my list of fabrics to get. This season I am using a wool/cashmere blend that has really worked out well with the silkscreening.

How do you source the materials you use?
It has been a lot of trial and error over the years. Talking to other people in the industry help you find out some good places to shop. My best advice is to keep close to your suppliers and ask them lots of questions, they are a wealth of knowledge. I cant tell you how much I have learned from the people who fix my sewing machine, sell me leather, or provide me with my silkscreen supplies.

How did you choose the name of your company?
My name is Lori Chalmers, growing up one of my best friends was named Lori Childs. People got tired of using our full names and eventually Chalmers was shortened to cha cha. When starting my business i tried for weeks to come up with a cleaver name, when I couldn't think of anything I went with my nick name. Now I am glad I went with it, I think it works.

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How important is the internet to your business? Do many customers discover about cha cha through the web?
The internet is a very important tool. It helps me reach people that I may not normally have the opportunity to. People have become familiar with cha cha through the etsy website.

What are your plans for the future?
I plan to keep creating one of a kind bags, continue to learn and perfect the art of handbag making, I know there is so much more to learn. I also have all kinds of ideas stored away for some great jackets.

What are your favorite handbag lines?
Canadian designer Christopher Kon, I really like Marc Jacobs line this season, Bottega Veneta, the list could really go on but to be honest I have found some of my favorite purses at second hand stores, grandmas have good handbags as well.

What's your definition of style?
Anything that fits your personal style in a simple and effortless way. If you are comfortable you are confident.

Do you think of yourself as stylish?
I have my own personal style but I don't know I would call it stylish.



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