World Chic is a new online store that makes it easier than ever for consumers to shop for high-quality original items from countries all over the world. World Chic prides itself on bringing cultural fashion such as leather goods, wool, knitwear, and more to people across the globe. To date, the Country Collections hail from Italy, Iceland, Ireland, Germany, and Scotland. Luxury goods are a specialty with Italian leather handbags, Icelandic fleece clothing & accessories, Irish merino-wool knitwear, Scottish cashmere scarves, German avant-garde clothing, and more.
World Chic was founded by New Yorkers Jessica Hanna and Andrew Marks experienced travelers who have an affinity for sustainable items that are crafted with artisan love. They recently discussed their business via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): When did you start traveling and how many countries have you visited?
Jessica: We started traveling together during college over our summer breaks. Together we have visited 10 countries throughout the world including — Canada, England, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Scotland and Spain. Hopefully in the future when the world opens back up and heals — we will be able to continue to expand our travels and grow!
MM: How did you initially get interested in fashion and what inspired you to start World Chic?
Jessica: I have always been interested in fashion. I think it’s a beautiful thing to represent yourself and your own individuality through your style. When it comes to cultural fashion, I think it is even more intriguing and fascinating. Not only is it unique in its own creation and purpose but also represents something important to the homage of one’s country, traditions and customs. When it comes to the direct inspiration of World Chic, when Andrew and I would travel for leisure we would always spend half our trip shopping for our friends and family. We would always have to buy an extra suitcase, or two, just to carry our gifts home and we had so much excitement from the actual purchasing and picking out of each product from each country to the gifting. We always loved seeing the reactions on our friends/family’s faces when they would get something special and unique from another country. We soon realized how much we wanted to do this for others who didn’t have the opportunity to travel because of time/money/etc. We wanted to bring travel to those who couldn’t or would never be able to.
Andrew: I honestly became very interested in fashion from Jessica and our travels. She truly opened my eyes to be more observant of different fashions here in the United States and overseas. I have been tremendously inspired by Jessica’s passion for the fashion industry and visions for the company.
MM: How did you select the countries to partner with and the specific items you offer from each place?
Jessica: We started off with places we’ve traveled to just for leisure. As we mentioned, we would spend a lot of time shopping for friends and family so we had an idea of what was popular from the countries we had been to. But, when it comes to the actual curation, we spend a lot of time researching before our trips and then as well when we are in the country. We would not only research the most prominent items to purchase in those countries but also understand the climate, the culture and fashion. We would spend time understanding the fashion and why certain fashion was trending or traditional from the country and what key components made the fashion part of the culture of the country. Like, wool from Iceland being a prominent part of their clothing due to the arctic climate and the evolved Icelandic sheep’s wool in our Iceland Collection. After doing this research to understand the country’s fashion — we would make lists of boutiques to visit and showrooms and then as well find ones that were completely off the digital map. We would pop into up to 10–15 a day and ask the shop owners, or artisans, questions about the history of their boutique, where their products are made, designed and manufactured.
MM: How did you establish the World Chic company and how have you kept it afloat?
Jessica: We have been operating another business, now called World Creative (a brand building and growth hacking company), for over 3 years now and have bootstrapped ourselves. On top of that, we have kept the operations in-house, from website design and development to photography, graphic design, and marketing just to name a few divisions, in order to keep costs as low as possible, all done by us the founders.
MM: What items are the top sellers so far?
Jessica: Right now, all of our Italian leather is very popular as well as our Icelandic wool and Irish knitwear/blankets. Everyone loves an Italian leather bag — especially with us providing authentically “made in Italy” leather. But as we work on growing more awareness about the Icelandic wool, we have seen a tremendous uptick in interest and excitement about its capabilities for those in colder climates. Our Irish knitwear is really popular among those looking for a solid sweater or blanket made of 100% merino wool or soft luxury wool that will truly last a lifetime. We’ve been told by customers when it comes to our Irish knitwear that they haven’t been able to find something like this in years as quality has truly decreased in big box stores. All of this is really what we love about what we do — not only are our products authenticated as we try to be as transparent as possible, but we also make sure quality is a key factor which pairs with our sustainability efforts.
MM: Do you have a favorite piece? If so, which one and why?
Jessica: Always my brushed wool scarf from the day I bought it as a tourist first visiting Iceland. It is my go-to anytime, anywhere in the winter. I am always cold and this has just made being outside way more enjoyable in the winter (especially New York Winter!) and I’m in love with the design.
Andrew: My wool ribbed beanie is definitely one of my favorite pieces. I wear it everywhere because it’s so cozy. It has kept me incredibly warm in freezing temperatures like -5°F and even cool in 60°F. This is because the double layered wool absorbs perspiration to keep your skin dry in all temperatures and is water waterproof and water repellent. Also, you can’t go wrong with an Italian leather large handbag or backpack. We have always used the same bags from when we also first picked up bags in Italy as tourists along our trips to different countries. They have lasted through and through and look more and more beautiful as time passes.
MM: What’s the coolest fan feedback you’ve gotten?
Jessica: We had one customer tell us they love their leather bag more than they love their pizza and that was a big thing to say (especially coming from a New Yorker)! Haha! And we’ve also had some really cool enthusiasm from the outdoor sports goers wearing the Icelandic wool and how unique and warm our pieces are for their snowboarding/skiing adventures. Feedback is not only cool for us to hear because it validates our concept, but the artisans we work with love hearing about how people in the U.S. respond.
MM: How do you hope to see the World Chic brand evolve in the near future?
Jessica: We have a lot of exciting projects that will encompass the idea of what World Chic is about in many other sectors. As far as World Chic, we want to keep on expanding to more and more countries around the world and educate our customers more not only on the authenticity and transparency of our products, but also just about culture and fashion from different countries around the world. At each step along the way, we aim to continue working to be as sustainable as possible. We also plan to design even more exclusive products with the artisans we work with globally. As we have seen within the fashion industry and society as a whole, it is more important than ever that we spend time opening ourselves up to understanding of the world around us and welcoming in different cultures, people and ethnicities. With World Chic, we hope to help educate more people about other cultures in addition to becoming more accepting of them as well as respecting the culture in which the fashion and certain styles actually came from. In turn, avoiding cultural appropriation and incorrect representation.
MM: What has been the highlight of your career owning a business so far?
Jessica: There really have been so many amazing aspects that have come from owning our own business that it’s hard to choose one. However, we would say taking a concept that hasn’t existed before and creating it from our own manifestations to a point of existence has been incredible. With World Chic, we are working to bring the ability for people around the world to Shop Abroad By Country CollectionTM from home. Especially during difficult times, we are bringing people more together and connected — which is more important than ever.
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