Interview Series: Samantha Lula of AllChokedUp
Welcome to MODA's Interview Series, where we feature influencers and leaders in the fashion industry in the Chicago area and beyond to discuss their design inspirations, their creative backgrounds and what it means to be a self-starter in the fashion world today.
There's no denying the 90s are back with chokers becoming an accessorizing staple in many of our wardrobes. Whether you're looking for a simple piece to tie together a look for class, or a statement making velvet and jewel encrusted choker for a night out with friends, Chicago based AllChokedUp has become a favorite amongst bloggers and online shoppers for their stylish and versatile takes on the jewelry trend.
We interviewed Samantha Lula, founder and designer of AllChokedUp, about her design inspirations, the challenges of running her own brand and the advice she has for young people passionate about pursuing fashion as a career. Keep reading for highlights from our conversation and to view some of AllChokedUp's signature pieces as modeled and photographed by UChicago students!
What is your current role at AllChokedUp? How did you become involved with the brand?
I am the owner and designer of AllChokedUp. I started the line officially a year ago and it began with a simple thought of me making myself a choker instead of buying one. I began to receive a lot of great feedback on what I was wearing, so I started to sell my pieces to friends, and it grew from there. One thing led to another, and here I am a year in, launching our next collection.
Fashion and retail are very competitive markets. What distinguishes your company from similar brands?
AllChokedUp strives to produce products that make a statement, whether in a subtle or strong fashion. We offer accessories that add an extra touch to any outfit. AllChokedUp is all about individuality and our wide selection of pieces allows our customer to wear whatever they want, when they want, while living the life they want.
Why fashion? Have you always been interested in pursuing fashion and retail as a career?
Ever since I was eleven, I would always create my own little stores, with my own designs. I have always had a passion for this industry and graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Fashion Business and Marketing. I even had the opportunity to live in New York City and work for one of the best Fashion Houses of all time, Giorgio Armani. Living in New York City overall evolved my fashion sense and inspired me to do what I love.
What is one of the most challenging aspects of running a small business?
What is most challenging about running a small business is that you are starting from zero! You need to build your way up while simultaneously building your reputation and your envisioned image. This can be challenging at times, and sometimes you might run into unexpected obstacles along the way and you’ll need to figure out ways around them. It is also important to remember that sometimes ideas can fail--which I have, unfortunately, learned the hard way--but in the end it will hopefully take you somewhere else, somewhere you are meant to be.
What are some of the most rewarding aspects of running a small business?
I love running a small business because you get out what you put in. You have no one to answer to and everything basically runs the way you want it to. You’re your own boss. If you want to succeed you have to always be pushing yourself and always be reaching out to people and networking. It is a lot of work, but when I see celebrities, magazines, or other influencers wearing AllChokedUp, it’s those small moments that make it all worth it.
Where do you find inspiration? What informs AllChokedUp’s design philosophy?
My inspiration comes from day-to-day street style trends, Instagram, watching television, magazines--pretty much everything around me. Our design philosophy is to provide our customers with one-of-a-kind, authentic products that enable them to be true to themselves. Our goal is not to produce ordinary chokers that you can find anywhere, but instead to provide unique pieces that people will love wearing for any occasion. As a company and a product, we respond to individuality while also keeping in mind the current trends.
Who is AllChokedUp’s ideal customer?
AllChokedUp’s ideal customer isn’t just one specific type of client. We have a different range in clients that wear our pieces in their own fashion. The one thing everyone has in common is that they are confident and are unique in their own way and find cool ways to wear our pieces. I always love seeing the different ways our clients choose to wear a choker. As mentioned, we really do aspire to provide our customers with pieces that they are able to personalize to their own specific style. AllChokedUp is meant to be for everyone and anyone who shares our love of chokers!
Can you tell us anything about the new collection? Where is AllChokedUp headed next?
Our new collection is going to transition from head-to-toe... literally! We want our clients to be AllChokedUp head-to-toe, so we will soon be launching our new collection of anklets. With the Spring/Summer season around the corner, we hope everyone will be rocking our anklets! Whether you are headed to the beach, going on a hot date, or even to a cool event, our anklets will add a unique statement to any outfit.
What have been some important milestones for the company that you’re especially proud of?
One of my favorite moments this year was our feature in Refinery29! That was a pretty cool moment, and it gave me more motivation to continue to do what I am doing, even if I don’t know all the time where it will take me. It’s knowing that people are recognizing what I’m doing and appreciating my work that truly makes it all worthwhile.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in pursuing a career in fashion or starting up their own company?
My advice to any young professionals in this industry is to take EACH and EVERY opportunity you are presented with. Although most opportunities may be unpaid, the things you learn and the experiences you obtain are priceless. Try to NETWORK with everyone you meet and make a memorable impression. It is important to be NICE to EVERYONE, even if they aren’t nice to you. When it comes to starting your own company, especially if you are super passionate about what you love and believe in it, DO IT! Don’t quit your day job just yet. Even though it will take up a lot of your time and energy, and you might not know what you're doing at times, the early stages of your business are key to making as many connections as possible so that you can build relationships and ask for advice or recommendations to help get your company, business, or idea off the ground. You will be surprised as to how many people are willing to help you! At one point or another, everyone was in your shoes and understands where you are coming from. It is not easy, but half the battle is remembering that, in time, it will slowly come together.
Photographers: Jaire Byers, Kiran Misra
Models: Shereen Al-Sawwaf, Gabrielle Bogert, Angie Kan
Stylist: Olivia Jia
In the feature image, Gabrielle is wearing The Kendall II and Shereen is wearing The Karlie.