In late fall, Canadian brand Ciao Sea hosted its official launch party in Toronto. The glamourous and very trendy brand had a huge turnout at the elegant Fermenting Cellar, including a high-profile attendee list with key influencers, VIPs and renowned supermodel Coco Rocha. The runway show that night presented some of the clothing from the company, which featured elaborate designs and delicate fabrics that were impressive and memorable. Some of the pieces presented included colourful silk robes, chic swimwear, and flowing dresses and skirts.
Ciao Sea’s unique pieces are designed to transport you through time and beautiful spaces. Each intricately detailed collection is inspired by the heart of adventure, enabling the wearer to experience different cultures and different eras. The Ciao Sea collection is elegantly styled and crafted from fine fabrics that represent the destinations and styles that inspire the brand.
Recently, we sat down with company owner Chelsea Chen, who runs the business with her husband Yunlong Li, and chatted about her work, inspiration and the future of Ciao Sea.
HANNAH YAKOBI: It’s fabulous to have a Canadian brand that focuses on resort wear. Why did you decide to start your own business? And what is your professional background?
I studied business at York University before starting Ciao Sea. I decided to create a fashion brand a year ago because I love fashion and I also love travel.
My friends and I enjoy taking a lot of pictures and posting them on social media when we travel. And, like most women, we like to buy and pack beautiful clothes and swimwear ahead of a vacation. So this concept really inspired me to start a resort fashion business.
How did you come up with the name?
My husband and I created the name together. As you know, my name is Chelsea, so it’s a play on words. More importantly, “Ciao” means “Hello” and “Goodbye” in Italian, and we believe in the heart of adventure, and saying “Hello” and “Goodbye” to the sea.
Who is your target demographic?
We are mostly looking at women who are 18 to 45 years of age. Our target audience is youthful, stylish and hip, and they have a strong passion for travel. Our brand itself is youthful and exuberant. For now, we are just focusing on womenswear.
So far, what has been your favourite part about running your own business?
I love the process of creating: from drawing the sketches, to the moment we see our production samples. And the constant revision of our vision inspires me to create.
What can you tell me about your latest collection?
We believe that our production should be high quality and feature beautiful designs. Our latest collection has a strong 80s flair. There are a lot of style cues from 80’s disco fashion. For example, we used sequins in some pieces to mirror the shiny lights inside the disco rooms of the time.
Can you tell us a bit more about the structure of your business and the team behind it?
I’m part of the design team and we collaborate together to design our products. In terms of the business side of things, my husband and I work on that together.
Where do you make the clothes?
Our makers are overseas, but we use materials and fabrics from Europe and Canada.
As a creative person and business owner, where do you draw the inspiration for your work?
Our inspiration is from different cultures, places, time periods and travel. If I had to choose a specific person who I use as an inspiration though, my personal idol is Kate Moss. I find her to be fearless and not afraid to be herself, and I find that very inspiring.
And how would you describe your own personal style?
I would say it’s diverse. It isn’t limited by anything. It isn’t bound by anything. It changes and grows with me as a person.
Looking back on your journey so far, what are you most grateful for?
I would say that I’m the most grateful for my husband and my family. They are the best support I could ask for. They always help to make my vision become something very concrete and real.
It looks like 2019 will be a very exciting time ahead for you and your business! What are some of your plans for the next year?
As a Toronto-based resort wear brand, our goal is to gain more exposure through trade shows, collaborate with more influencers and create more revolutionary resort clothing. I’d like us to do tradeshows now and get more exposure for the brand, and after that we will have runway shows, perhaps at Toronto Fashion Week or New York Fashion Week.
In 2019, we will also be participating in the Coterie. And we are planning to go international at some point, probably very soon.
I think that Ciao Sea is a very youthful brand, and it is our hope to be the freshest resort wear brand of 2019!
Ciao Sea’s latest collection, titled Le Jardin de Madame Cézanne, will be released around Christmas 2018. Full details will be available on their website. The brand ships to both Canada and the United States.