Atlanta-based streetwear designer Chi Ume got her start in fashion in the same place we all seem to spend so much of our time—the internet. With a bit of styling experience and a successful fashion blog under her belt, she decided to venture into the world of designing after teaching herself how to sew and sketch at a young age.
Living in Boston at the time, Chi Ume recognized that most fast fashion and store brands weren’t catering to her needs and preferences. “Fast fashion stores usually carry things that are trendy and I never like to wear what everyone else is wearing,” she says of what inspired her to begin designing. “I’ve always been a creative person growing up, so my personal style has always been important to me. So since I could never quite find what I wanted or envisioned in my head, I started designing,” she adds.
Oddly enough, fast fashion seems to have caught up with Chi Ume’s personal style. As companies like H&M and Forever 21 are capitalizing off of streetwear in recent years, it can be hard for the average shopper to differentiate between timeless pieces and eye-catching trends. “I think the biggest challenge for me is designing streetwear that isn’t trendy,” she says. Anyone can mimic the styles they see on the runway and sell them at cheaper prices, but to truly be innovative in the niche world of streetwear takes both guts and a good sense of style—luckily, Chi Ume has both. “Streetwear is an expressive style and very personalized [so] combining streetwear and high fashion is [the] key [to] making timeless pieces,” she says.
That’s not to say she isn’t being influenced by what’s already being made, as many great artists take what they see and become inspired to make something better or more personalized to their own tastes. Chi Ume has a way of combining eye-catching, gutsy pieces with the tastefulness of classic cuts and styles such as the trench coat. Take her sold out maroon, snakeskin trench coat for example. It takes a classic style and gives it a huge dose of taste, personality and nerve. It’s the people that aren’t afraid to take risks that end up making a huge impact in fashion, and with that Chi Ume is well on her way to showing on runways around the world.
“My biggest fashion influence is life. As I get older and grow and learn, I find that my style does too,” she says. “I always seem to reinvent myself as a designer through my journey of finding myself. My other big inspirations are Rihanna, Virgil Abloh, Aleali May, Rox Brown and Luka Sabbat,” says Chi Ume. Some of her upcoming projects include creating pieces for a member of EarthGang for their tour with J.Cole, as well as a new line which she hopes to launch by next year. Right now she’s focusing on selling her stuff in pop up shops at festivals around the country. To keep up with Chi Ume and find out which city she’ll be selling in next, follow her on Twitter and Instagram.