Hi Chris! I’m excited to find out about your boutique, could you firstly tell us a little about yourself, your background and how you got into the fashion industry?
I first became interested in fashion after leaving school. I enrolled on a GNVQ course in fine art before then applying to the London College of Fashion, London University, to study BA in Men’s Fashion Design and moving to London to study. This is where i met Queesra when she was studying at the University of East London doing a BA in fashion design and marketing.I stayed in London for 5 years, completing my degree and then working in a bespoke Italian tailors called Nico Donna. I always had plans to start my own brand and Queesra (my wife) wanted to do the same. We both wanted to open our own tailors and dressmaking shop but decided we wanted to do it closer to home and so we both moved back to liverpool.
Being deaf yourself, what were your challenges or worries about entering the business world and accessibility?
Of course Queesra and i have faced barriers, barriers to accessing the fashion community have always been around communication as it generally is for anybody who is Deaf. Getting an ATW budget approved as a self employed couple was a challenge but not one that we were going to give up on. There are times when we don’t have an interpreter because of ATW funding and not having enough ‘hours’ but we have learned to communicate with customers well and all of them have been very accepting of us, i can honestly say now we never have a problem. (We have even had a few customers who can sign!)
Could you tell us an example of how you’ve overcome any barriers or stereotypes about being deaf and working in fashion?
While at university i had to find a placement as part of my course in the 2nd year of my degree. I sent off more than 100 CV’s to well known designers/tailors and only received 4 replies – i failed at all 4 interviews. I decided that i was going to do the same again without mentioning that i was deaf and I received over 20! I didn’t pursue any of them because it proved to me their attitude towards deafness. Instead I was put in touch with Nico Donna, an Italian suit designer/ tailor and after meeting him for the first time I knew we were going to get on. Because English was his second language he struggled with it just as i did and because of that (and because he was Italian) he was very visual and used lots of gestures to communicate. We got on so well and I learnt so much that he offered me my first job after I qualified!
what support (if any) do you have for communication in your work?
Well, currently there are 2 deaf staff working at the shop, myself and my wife Queesra. However, she will be leaving the shop soon to persue he own career in pastures new which means that the interpreting support we have will drop from 40 hours a week to 20! I am currently battling with ATW to grant me extra hours to enable me to continue to have the correct level of interpreting support in the shop. The team of Interpreters we have are great! They understand all the specific jargon and terminology for working in a tailoring and dressmaking shop and in the fashion industry and all of them are great with the customers and other staff.
Who are your fashion role models? How did you learn their trade and who did you aspire to be like?
My first inspiration came from my Grandma whom i used to watch sewing all the time, she taught me when i was younger and inspired my to follow my dream. For Queesra, her inspiration also came from home as her mother was a seamstress so she grew up watching her mum create. We both have favourite designers though who we take inspiration from in terms of fashion. My favourite designer is Vicktor d’Rolf and Queesra’s is Alex McQueen. They are both women’s wear designers and have produced some fabulous designs.
Do you think deaf people have good fashion sense? Are we on equal par to the hearing world in a fashion sense?!
Haha. It depends! I have seen some bad fashion faux pas on both sides!
What would you like to achieve in your fashion career?
For the immediate future, I am working on opening a second store and growing our staff base! The plans are in motion already so hopefully that will be the next big step for us. Long-term – yes it would be lovely to be recognised on a more national/international level – i guess you’ll have to watch this space to see how that goes!
What’s been the hardest or most memorable contract you’ve taken on?
The hardest design we have ever made was about 2 years ago, a bride to be came into the shop wanting a bespoke wedding dress. Her list of ‘must haves’ was massive and it took a long time to design something she was happy with and that would be practical to wear. Once we started constructing it she kept changing her mind! Every time she came for a fitting she wanted something adding or taking away or changing – it was nightmare for us to try and work the dress and still keep her happy so that it was perfect for her big day. It turned out all alright in the end but Queesra and I were drained!
Who would you like to design clothes for, any well known hearing or deaf people?
There are a few actually – personally i would love to design something for the American Deaf actress Marlee Matlin and British presenter Memnos Costi! There are two hearing people i would love to design for Kyle Minogue because she has great fashion sense and Boris Johnson because he needs it!!
What would you like to share with young deaf people or want a career in fashion, any advice?
My advice is to follow your dreams, don’t give up (even though it is hard at times) be positive and believe in yourself as a Deaf person. I was told once that ‘ an Ironing board is a surf board that gave up its dreams and got a boring job’, don’t be an ironing board – be the surf board riding the waves!
I love that! So, where is your boutique and how do people make a booking with you?
Our store is on Parkgate Road, Neston, Wirral and we are open Mon-Fri 9-4.30. Anybody wanting to visit us can pop in at any time, we are always happy to help!
Chris & Queesra King
BA (Hons) Fashion Design, BA (Hons) Fashion Technology, HEDip
7 Parkgate Road