Papi Chulo! Talks with Teena May, Founder of Chulo
Chulo is the exclusive dress courtier that currently specialises in evening and resort wear for women who want to embrace that summertime feeling all year round. The pieces are made to measure and designed to evoke our inner slay whatever the occasion.
We sat down with Teena May, Founder and Designer of Chulo, to discuss business and personal lessons, inspirations from the Lion King and that time she was called a pimp.
Chulo, often short for ‘Papi Chulo’, became the brand name for Teena’s business in a very unusual way, “it’s a funny story” she chuckles. “I was setting up people in relationships at one point, and people used to say – you’re like a pimp, so they started calling me Papi Chulo”. Aside from polygamous connotations, Teena found that the definition of the singular word Chulo perfectly encapsulated the type of woman she wanted to dress, “when I looked up the word Chulo, it actually means someone that is stunning and cool; so what started out as an insult, turned into the perfect name for my business”.
Teena’s experience in textiles comes practically and family members who learnt the trade heavily inspire her, “my stepdad was a tailor and had one of those massive industrial machines!”. Once Teena got to grips of the basics, unbeknown to her, the Chulo journey began, “I always found it difficult to find swimwear based on my height and body type, so I started playing around and creating pieces for myself”.
Although the journey started out this way, her passion and skill caught the attention of others. In true businesswoman fashion, she evaluated the current market to identify trends and ways she could stand out, “I didn’t want to be pigeonholed, so instead of making just swimwear, I decided to design what goes on top of swimwear to enhance your look on the beach.”
"One thing I do is pray and it feels like a release – God is my therapy"
Inspiration for swimwear designs naturally comes from stunning holiday destinations. As a woman of Ghanian decent, her Canary two-piece is inspired by the motherland and everyone’s favourite children’s movie; “the yellow colour came from my Ghanian background but the inspiration came from Zazu, the little bird from The Lion King. I liked how his posh British accent contrasted with the African scenery” and the fusion between West African culture and British nationality also represents Teena’s identity.
From African scenery inspiration to travels to the Mediterranean, Teena is frequently requested to create garments for special occasions in warm climates, “lots of clients email me about making items for major birthdays that they are celebrating abroad”. While this is special for each Chica, part of the Chulo message also focuses on the importance of good health and wellbeing, ”for me, Chulo is also about celebrating ourselves. Take some time out, and if you want to slay on the beach – why not?”
Exceptional customer service and exclusivity are paramount for the Chulo brand, “Once a customer puts on their Chulo garment, I want them to think ‘I’m one in 5, or one in 10 that has this piece’; right now, I’m not catering to the masses”. Although Chulo is currently a small business, Teena works tirelessly to ensure the full order process is transparent, “it’s so easy to send a tweet to major retailers complaining until you’re in it yourself. Your quality control needs to be A1!”.
"I liked how his posh British accent contrasted with the African scenery”
Like us, Teena believes in the power of positive affirmations and is fervent in speaking highly about her future, “the more I tell myself I can do something, the more I believe I can do it”. The quality of her life enables her to block out the voices of others and focus on what she believes is part of her purpose, “one thing I do is pray and it feels like a release – God is my therapy”.
As people often say, life is the greatest teacher and life as an entrepreneur provides countless lessons. We asked Teena what some of her most poignant are thus far, “the most important lesson I’ve learnt so far is to keep going at whatever you set your mind to. I read this scripture from the Bible to myself daily ‘I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13) and that stuff is real!“ she passionately responds. On the journey to living your purpose, it’s important not to undervalue the process, irrespective of who supports the vision; “I have to remember that I’m at the beginning and God has shown me a lot. What is He going to do when I’m in this thing full throttle?”
Chulo’s end of summer sale starts TODAY. Head over to www.officialchulo.com to grab pieces for those winter sun getaways or forward planning items for Summer 2018!
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