Just launched, CIIARA is a new boutique local label that fuses fashion with a social conscience.
Founded by Chiara To, a 33 year old start up entrepreneur, CIIARA is about empowering women and inspiring them to move freely through life on their own terms. Built for the stylish and socially conscious woman, the label follows a social impact business model, with 50% of the brand’s profits donated to charity.
After travelling, and deciding that she wanted to have a life that created a positive impact for others, Chiara set about creating a brand with a philanthropic stand point.
It’s this philosophy which cements CIIARA as a brand to watch in 2019 and beyond. Fusing together fashion and dance, CIIARA combines comfort and versatility, while keeping a keen eye on aesthetics.
The debut collection features a mix of classic colours with hints of print and sparkle across a variety of garments. These pieces include wet-look leggings, bodysuits, crops, tops and skirts, that look great together or pared back with your favourite wardrobe staples.
We caught up with Chiara to find out more..
What inspired you to develop the Ciiara brand?
I travelled to Spain in 2017, and although I was having a wonderful time, it dawned on me that even though I had a good life and could afford to go on holidays, I wanted to live a life that had a positive impact on others.
I started reflecting on everything that was in my life and which area I could find a gap to start a business. This is where I came up with the concept of women’s clothing inspired through dance.
As an avid Latin dancer, dance was a way for me to connect with others, express myself and find a way to focus my mind and energy. I started to realise there was a lack of good quality and stylish clothing for women that was also appropriate for dancing and movement.
I have always loved fashion so was very excited about the idea of starting a new clothing label. The concept of a social impact business was important to me from the start, and when I mentioned this idea (creating a new a label inspired by dance, with a social cause) to a few friends, they were immediately excited. This gave me the motivation to start properly planning and move ahead with CIIARA.
It’s amazing that you donate 50% of your profits to charity. What was the driving force for this initiative?
At the start I knew I wanted to make a social impact but wasn’t sure exactly what method for donation we were going to go with.
I spent time with a consultancy company to work on our social impact model and compare the models that other social enterprises use. This provided some clarity and I decided to go with 50% profit donation as it’s a significant figure with a clear message to buyers.
This model also allows some risk mitigation during times when we’re not making a profit or just breaking even (in which case we drop to donating 10% of sales).
We currently have an agreement with a charity based in Hanoi, Vietnam; and we support their program on rescuing and supporting sex trafficking victims. (You can read about this cause here) We chose this charity because I’m Vietnamese and I was keen to ensure that each dollar donated would go a long way.
I narrowed my search down to reputable organisations which also supported women. Blue Dragon was a clear winner – I met with this charity in Hanoi twice last year and was very comfortable about their work and ability to support my business as well, particularly in helping us track where our money would be going and therefore provide confidence to our buyers.
The concept of donating to charity aligns with our vision for the brand, which is to empower women, inspire self-expression and a love for life.
In particular, through each carefully designed garment, our buyers can feel beautiful and empowered not only through wearing our pieces, but in knowing they are changing other women’s lives at the same time.
What do you hope to teach your customers through engaging with Ciiara?
Essentially, we would like to empower as many women as possible – both buyers and recipients of funding via the charities that we support. We empower women to live a life that is authentic for themselves, to move freely through life on their own terms.
Be yourself, know that you’re part of a community, and do the things that you believe in.
This is why we are also building our blog, and building a community through the people we work with (most of our current models are dancers that we personally know). We are also creating more videos and interviews with authentic women to showcase via social media.
We would like as many people on this journey with us as possible. At the end of the day, every item sold makes a difference, and that’s what’s truly important – that we’re creating this difference through community.
It’s just as easy for us instead to donate the tens of thousands of dollars that have been invested in this business, however we want to bring more people on this journey – to create connection and authenticity in the current environment of fast fashion and human disconnect through technology. To create a new pathway for fashion – to show that we can be authentic, socially conscious and stylish at the same time.
What sets Ciiara apart from any other dance or fashion brands?
What sets us apart is the connection between being a premium label, and our level of commitment to social impact – donating 50% of profits to charity and having a very solid agreement in place with our charity partner.
Yet our products are also unique in that they’re made to inspire dance and movement, but look like fashion pieces. For example, our backless bodysuits all have removable bra cups so that wearers don’t need to worry about stick-on bras. We design necklines and straps so that they don’t fall down and expose too much when the dancer does a dip or other fluid movement.
Our collection includes pieces that can be worn from the studio to the dinner party or nightclub.
Tell us a bit about what we can expect in the first collection?
The brand has a premium feel but is still grounded and authentic. We’ve chosen solid and luxurious colours – black, white, gold and red; with a touch of sequins and lace to provide some glamour.
The first collection includes a few staples, simple pants, tops and skirts with small details, and the designs are made to mix and match.
Using only stretch fabric, our collection is made to flatter each woman’s unique shape and allow flexibility of movement, and each piece is carefully finished with a customised rose gold logo disc identifying our CIIARA brand.
If you could dress anyone in the world in Ciiara, who would it be and why?
I would dress Beyonce, she is a strong, powerful woman who is all about empowering other women too! …Of course she is also a fantastic dancer and is never scared of showing off her unique fashion style or voicing her opinions on various matters from feminism to same sex marriage. All round authentic and a great role model for women to be themselves and follow their own path.