Laura Fontan, the Co-Founder of Chula Fashion, started her journey in fashion alongside the greatest love of her life, her late husband, Diego Cortizas, 20 years ago when they moved to Vietnam and made it their home. Diego came from the architectural world whereas Laura was a student of Political Science but their sensibilities towards arts and crafts was honed in a passion for all things creative and beautiful.
The initial days was all about exploration of the local textiles and colours and how these could be contemporarised without compromising on their ethnic value. Working with the local artisans and tailors, it was small steps in the beginning but soon their work gained immense recognition in Vietnam and it was only a matter of time before Chula crossed borders to go international.
The couple ensured that the business was built on a social enterprise model that was not only inclusive but also took the intrinsic Vietnamese culture into deep consideration. With limited production, the focus is on quality and the uniqueness of each piece that carries the Chula trademark. There are two Chula stores: one in Hanoi and the other in Ho Chi Minh. “Our main store is in Hanoi and our customers are able to interact with the team in our workshop and view how our products are carefully handcrafted. In fact, we have designed the space in a way where fashion meets culture in community setting”.
The textile used in a Chula design is mainly silk but the demand has also grown for linen and cottons in recent days. Each piece is on average priced from USD 200 onwards. Laura says,” For us fashion is a form of art. I don’t have a background in fashion but I see it as an expression of aesthetics and art. I look at the Chula clothes as wearable art, wearable happiness. Each piece has a story that connects the wearer with the brand”.
“Chula is a Spanish colloquial word that means ‘cool, pretty’,” says Laura who is deeply invested in wanting to create conversation pieces that represent the richness of Vietnam’s culture in contemporary fashion that is sustainable. She describes the Chula woman as someone who believes in beautiful things but has strong social sensitivity. “Our clients are our biggest supporters. They know and understand our brand philosophy and the social aspects of our values, the culture and the community”.
Chula does two to four collections a year, participates in fashion weeks and shows overseas and in Vietnam besides doing customized work for their clients. Their design process is ongoing throughout the year.
Diego passed away two years ago and he was at the heart of the design process at Chula. He was the person who gave Chula its identity. “You can see a Chula design in any part of the world and recognize it,” says Laura. The team was trained under him and continues to work and expand on his legacy.
Life without Diego is not easy for Laura who remembers him as a very ‘humble, wise, knowledgeable and super creative and inspiring human being’. “He loved to empower the local community. He had such vast interests from politics to culture, music, design and the arts. He had a love for learning and teaching. He was curious and kind and generous. He had an amazing heart,” says Laura with unshed tears glistening in her eyes.
Laura shared her life with Diego for 30 years and has three beautiful children. She says, “With Chula, he gave me such a beautiful legacy to take forward. I am working very hard to keep his passion alive. Even now that he is gone, I feel that he is with me. And through the work, I continue to grow as a person”.
To place orders: www.chulafashion.com