I was excited to connect with Teresa Hu, the Creative Director of the L.A. based online store Shop Koshka (they also sell on Chictopia Shop!). Just by looking at their selection, you know that this up-and-coming retail site is clearly for the creative and artistic girl who relishes in unique pieces and indie designers.
Name: Teresa Hu
Title: COO/Creative Director
Based in: L.A.
Describe your store in three words.
Fun, Weird, Artsy.
What does “Koshka” mean?
It’s Russian for Cat.
Where do you get inspiration from?
Real girls that I meet and random people on the street. Sometimes it’s really random- like it could be a 75 year old Korean lady but she’s wearing her pants in a different way than I’ve seen before, or maybe she has a whole matching suit on and it just works. I notice when people wear things differently and that really inspires me.
Can you tell us about your school background and how your store came about?
I went to Art Center for about a year and half and studied Illustration. Afterwards, I lived in Berlin. I started off selling vintage on Etsy and that slowly took off and that’s kind of when I knew I had a big interest in fashion and that I might possibly be good at it too. I started looking for a clothing company to hop onto to get some experience and serendipitously I was contacted by a group of people who were starting Koshka. They’d seen me in a German blog that wrote about my Etsy shop and were looking for another member.
How long have you been in the business?
What’s it like working in L.A.? How does living there affect your business?
It’s great. L.A. to me is a working city and a place where you can get things done. There’s also such a crazy amount of young, talented people living here and that’s really inspiring. Having moved from Berlin and knowing what it was like running a business there, L.A. is just a really efficient city. A lot of our designers are right around the block from us and it’s great being local and getting to know the people who you are working with.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I’m in the office around 10:30. I run through emails and make a list of what needs to be done that day. Then, I hack away at the list for the rest of the day. It could be anything from making graphics for the store, taking pictures for a blog post, casting models, pulling clothes for a stylist or answering customer’s emails (yes, that’s me answering you!). It’s a big jumble. My iCal looks crazy.
What’s your biggest store-related accomplishment?
When we hit 10,000 likes on Facebook. In the beginning of 2011 we had only 1,200. It’s really awesome to see your fan base grow.
How big is your team?
We are 3 people.
Where do you find products?
We go to different fashion weeks and visit the shows there. Also we do a lot of research online — designers all have lookbooks online and that makes it really easy to find people from all around the world.
Where and how do you network with other people in the fashion industry?
It’s all kind of spontaneous. We might be writing a blog article and then meet someone who fits the story and hit it off. Or someone might reach out to us to do a story. Also word of mouth. The L.A. fashion industry is not that big and everyone kind of knows each other, so it’s a little bit of a domino effect.
Your store is online only. What are your favorite sites to sell at or market your store?
We do Chictopia and also sometimes work with R29 and their Reserve. These two are great because they allow us to reach beyond our fanbase. Chictopia is nice because fans can actually comment on the clothing items and that gives us great feedback that we would not otherwise have. We also work with a lot of bloggers and those are usually people we personally like, or have a connection with.
Any tips on how to get great product shots?
We shoot everything in house and work with flash gear and DSLR cameras. If you don’t have access to this type of gear (which I didn’t when I first started on Etsy) then shoot everything outside and focus on getting nice, even lighting.
You’ve worked with fashion bloggers and vloggers in the past. Do you have any tips on the most effective ways to collaborate with bloggers/vloggers?
We have a huge group of bloggers that we work with and also we are constantly adding more to that list. The type of bloggers who we work with are ones that we are personally fans of and are girls that wear things in an interesting and different way. My tip for working with bloggers and vloggers is to be genuine and to reach out to people who share a common aesthetic and not to work with blogger/vloggers that just have a lot of hits and might not match the style of your shop.
Would you recommend that anyone start their own store? How does someone know that they have what it takes?
This is a really tough thing to answer. If you’ve run your own store, or worked at a company where you’ve had those admin/managing roles then you know it’s a tough job and really, actually running a store is like 70% administrative and 30% creative (maybe even less than that). If you’re a creative person this can be tough because it’s a lot paper pushing but in the end you get to see the results of all your hard work with a product that came out of your own brain. If that’s important to you, then owning/running a store could be for you.
As far as having what it takes…I honestly think that half of the game of running a store of your own is figuring out if you have what it takes.
Any last tips you can give to someone looking to start their own clothing store?
Study what you like about other shops. What is it you like about shopping there. Break it down to the essentials. Really dissect and figure out what you respond to. Don’t copy what you see. Make your own content and ideas and see where it takes you. It’s all one big adventure.