Tonya Schamp, Founder of CFÉ Clothing, Talks Pop-up Shop, Entrepreneurship and Anxiety

Behind the “pretty girl” from CFÉ clothing stands a woman who’s more than just a pretty face from Instagram. She’s a clever boss lady who started her own label from scratch… and her name is Tonya Schamp. Upon the launch of her pop-up shop in Antwerp and her latest collection, we had the time to have a chat with the CFÉ clothing founder. Her busy schedule didn’t stop her from spending some quality time with Enfnts Terribles to spill all the tea. During the interview, Tonya opened up about her future plans, anxiety, entrepreneurship and more.

Tonya tell us about yourself and how you started your clothing brand?

It all started when I was in college studying communication management. Around that time I started a project on the side to get inspired. I wanted to take everything I learned at school and apply it to my brand. That’s how I started CFÉ clothing.  With this concept, I wanted to show what coffee says about your personality. I started with Noir, Au Lait and Sucré. In the end, it always got sold out and there was a demand for more. From there on I realized that this could be a business.

What was the impact of Instagram for your brand?

Ooh, Instagram did everything for my business. At the time I was young and I didn’t have the big budgets to launch my brand in a big way so I used social media to support my brand. I did a photo shoot with Raia Maria-Laura and with that, I had a strategy in my head. Apparently, I’m good at seeing great opportunities while having a very small budget and making it work. So at some point Adil El Arbi en Bilall Fallah, from the movie Black, saw what I was doing and picked up on it and wanted to do a photo shoot together. The result was amazing and we published it on Instagram and got a great response, people were sharing it. Keep in mind that back in the days Instagram was free so you didn’t have to pay for ads… that was literally free promotion.

How do you feel when you look back at your very first collection?

First of all, I always say; “I’m not a designer, I’m a creative”. Because I don’t want to take away from what designers do. My strength is that I see great opportunities and concepts. I started out by putting my idea on a T-shirt and then it grew into a concept. After launching I worked on improving my designs and the techniques. When I look at my first collection, It makes me very proud that I started out with T-shirts and right now I’m organizing pop-up shops. So yeah, I’ve come a long way.

Congratulations with your pop-up shop Tonya. Were there any struggles you faced during the process of being an independent entrepreneur?

Yes, plenty of times. Especially when you’re having a meeting with older people. As a 20-year-old girl, I was entering a meeting room and you just saw that people were underestimating me. But you know, you have to be confident and if you’re there to talk about your passion, and not trying too hard, people will know you’re real. So when you enter that room with a presentation full of answers to the questions they were going to ask… they have nothing else to say.

The thing is when you start a company at a young age,  you don’t know a lot about the business you’re in. You learn from the mistakes you make. And mistakes are good. However, when it came down to pricing or unexpected costs… You’re like, “Fuck, why didn’t I see that coming!” But now I know because I’ve figured it out. Now that I can do everything myself, I feel confident enough about outsourcing a few services.

Does your success compensate the anxiety you have at times?

I’d rather say that the accomplishments compensate the struggle. Most of the time I’m working a lot and thinking of a master plan in my head and the only person that notices that I’m way too far in my head is my mom. At that moment, she’s the person that can calm me down. She always tells me to breathe. After that, I feel strong enough to work towards something else. Even when I was organizing the launch of my pop-up shop, I had so much anxiety. So I set my priorities straight and canceled my flight to New York.

Anyhow, to answer your question, a lot of young creatives ask me how I do it. I’m like if you really want something you should “just do it”… like Nike says.

How do you think you’ve evolved as a person, but also businesswise too?

It can be overwhelming sometimes because I do everything myself. Whether it’s administration, accounting, marketing, etc. It’s all in my hands. And when you make a mistake, it’s all up to you to fix it, that gives you so much anxiety. But ones you’re over it, it’s a relief and you really feel in charge of your own business. Even while I was launching the shop, I’ll admit I was so anxious, but in the end, I was so happy I did everything myself.

In regard to production, I learned every aspect from production to marketing, when I was out in Los Angeles for a month and a half. Everything from sewing, cutting, fits, shrinkage and more. So when you look at my track suits now, it’s entirely designed by CFÉ clothing. But then when it comes down to anxiety and challenges, you just can’t listen to everyone’s opinion about your own product. Because if you do, you’re going to be one of those typical brands.

What are the future plans with CFÉ clothing? Can we expect any brand collaboration in the future?

For me the pop-up shop is a way to meet up with clients and the CFÉ supporters. But it’s also a way for me to see if I’m going to open a bigger pop-up shop in the future, or several ones in different cities. At the same time I don’t want to jinx anything because I’m so superstitious.

If there would be a brand collaboration I’d rather link my brand to strong personalities. The clothing stands for personalities. Take my Noir tees, for example, they stand for purity and independence so why not link it with another person with an interesting and outgoing personality, you know? That’s what I really want to do. It’s also a way to support other young creatives, give them a platform and share their message through my clothing line.

Besides running your clothing line and having an online marketing agency, what other things would you like to do?

This might sound very superficial, but I really look up to people like Kylie Jenner because of their marketing skills. They just wear their own stuff and people want it because it’s linked to their persona. Even with me, a lot of people on Snapchat ask me about the skincare products I use all the time. Most of the time I use a good natural product because that’s all my skin needs. So maybe in the future, I’d like to do something with skincare.

Any advice for young creatives trying to make it out here?

Just stay true to yourself and like Nike says: “Just do it”. I know it’s corny, but it’s true.

Photo credits: Raia Maria-Laura

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