Christine Kitching is a woman who knows how to make things happen. The first time I met her was in class at university and I have always been amazed at the energy and determination she has when it comes to achieving her goals. She was a huge part in getting my first label off the ground and I’ll never forget just how many things she was able to pushed through – I would not hear from her for ages then, boom, all of a sudden things she was working through in the background came to life and it was ON. The biggest inspiration for me, however, was and still is, how resilient she is. To me that represents success.
Going out and trying something for yourself is hard – there is often no money, no clear road map and no guarantee of the outcome. Unlike what is often portrayed, there is no black and white definition of success of failure – it is not that unless you are a millionaire overnight, that you are not doing well and should slink back into the “normal” world never to try again – what a load of bull that would be. Success is in the grey matter and is often about how you push through the struggle – if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
And that’s what Christine does well, and why I view her as one of the most successful people I know. For example, Fashion Swap NZ was a great triumph, so she took the idea to the UK. The UK is a tougher market to crack, however, at the end of the day it is better to be a small fish in a little pond.
Eventually, she will have spent so much time doing the hard yards that they become easy yards. Time and time again she has tried something, learnt from it, improved then started again. She does it a smile and always to help pay it forward, all these reasons and more are why I am so excited to share her story with you today.
[line]Name : Christine Kitching
Occupation: PR & Marketing Professional, founder Fashion Swap UK
What did you study and what was your original intended career path?
I went to chef school after high school as my child hood dream was to be like Jamie Oliver and be head Chef of a Hilton Hotel!
Give us a brief background on your career to date:
- Graduated from Chef School & worked in a top NZ Restaurant & realised this was not what I wanted as a career.
- Attended Fashion School, landed an incredible job with Zambesi & it was thanks to them that I discovered my love for Events, PR & Marketing as I was mentored & allowed to assist with their Shows!
- Landed an incredible full time role at Fashion Week`s HQ which helped me perfect my organizational & networking skills, develop my marketing and PR skills & mould me further.
- Went back to University to complete a BA in FTVMS and minor in Marketing & Management so I could have more papers supporting my experience;
- Started my own small PR Agency where I helped small businesses develop, market & launch their brands.
- Left for London to put all my skills and qualifications to real use as London is where the challenges are! Since being here I was fortunate enough to start freelancing in the Fashion Industry and roles have taken me to LA, Europe and most recently, Paris Fashion Week.
- Its almost been two years since I touched down and I am now getting stuck into a more fixed role as planting roots is always important in ones career!
How did Fashion Swap come about?
A friend of mine in NZ wanted to do something using fashion in order to pay it forward so I jumped on the bandwagon and we created a fashion market place where girls could come along and swap their pre-loved items with other like minded girls. We really wanted to help those in need and the very first Swap event was held in a Church hall where we had over 150 ladies turn up and enjoy free coffee, cakes, sandwiches and leave with 15-20 items of clothing plus goody bags filled with products from Dove, Whittakers, Vitamin Water and more!
This initative grew and before we knew it, small businesses and established brands wanted to partake in our marketplace to get exposure and market themselves to this new audience. All the leftover items from the swap would go to a charity where women could go and get clothing for next to nothing in order to attend an interview. This was our way of paying it forward and this grew so we had a following of 800+ ladies per swap.
Since arriving in London I had that itch to do something like the Swap here but the timing was never right. Finally this August allowed for me to use my local networks and resources and make it happen. We did it![line]
Paying it forward is the way to go – especially when you can use your talents, time and resources on tap to make somebody else’s day!
What are some of the most exciting parts of running Fashion Swap?
Seeing ladies leave the swap with more than what they bargained for. At our most recent swap we had a family drive down especially from Oxford so the two daughters could attend. They had bought about 70% of the raffle tickets and the dad had won a £50 Hamper from a local SA Shop called The Savanna which made their day, our day and reminded us why we do this. Paying it forward is the way to go – especially when you can use your talents, time and resources on tap to make somebody else’s day!
What have been some of the biggest challenges for you?
London is one huge city and the biggest challenge was assuming you could simply call on all the people you know to come along and support your initiative. If you want to make it in this city you need balls of steel and you need to keep asking, knocking and trying. You need to become a master of self-motivation and a master at pushing yourself to get up and try again.
Another challenge was making it all happen as a one man band so I had to try and rely on others which was a huge test since I am such a perfectionist. A great manager knows how to delegate so for me this proved to be a challenge as I had to delegate to people who have never before been involved in an event like this and were there for the charity rather than the initiative.
[line][pullquote width=”600″ float=”left”]You need to become a master of self-motivation and a master at pushing yourself to get up and try again.[/pullquote] [line]
What are some of the unexpected results of running Fashion Swap?
An unexpected result was forming new working relations with other like-minded individuals considering the event did not fully go as planned. Of course we wanted to raise money for a great cause however this project cost a lot more than what we initially expected it to which meant I personally had to foot the bills in order to make it happen. This initiative simply had to work since I had sold the idea to swappers, vendors and had a commitment to a charity to help them make a difference. This was good enough for NZ so this has to be good enough for London.
How does social media feature in your marketing strategy?
Without Social Media this initiative would not have happened. Thanks to Instagram, Facebook and email databases this Swap was able to virtually reach the masses and get people interested. Don’t underestimate the power of SM!
If you want to roll with the big boys, study, save and really get your teeth sunk into the industry that you want to flourish in one day.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business?
Make sure you do your research. Having some capital saved up – the motivation, drive and hungriness is simply not enough. I tried that about 7 years ago when I got into trading thinking that since I had the balls I could make some quick money importing and trading goods however, this almost ended my fresh career. Study something, have credentials, you need that to fall back onto incase your first plan doesn’t work out. I don’t see my trading venture as a failure, I see it as a strength. I have had clients congratulate me for stepping out and taking the risk, however, if you want to roll with the big boys, study, save and really get your teeth sunk into the industry that you want to flourish in one day, then step out and take that risk and start your own business.
What’s next for Fashion Swap UK?
To keep our heads down and do it again. Work harder, grow tougher and deliver an even better Swap event. Crystal Palace has been voted the next ideal place for Fashion Swap UK to happen and then we might need to organize an even bigger one for Streatham.
What would you say to your 21 year old self?
Stay committed to the cause. If you start something, make sure you finish it. Don’t be rash. Think, digest it, then react.
What person dead or alive would you invite to a dinner party and why?
Richard Branson. Books portray this man to have titanium balls and I would like the opportunity to interact with him over dinner and see what he really would be like. What a conversation with him would be like. Is he truly as good as he is made out to be?!