Fashion meets life.
"Character. Intelligence. Strength. Style. That makes beauty."
-Diane von Furstenberg
-Diane von Furstenberg
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At the age of six, Chynna Thomas experienced the horror of having her dad deported. "He's in a country called Guyana. I really got motivated because immigration basically told me I'd have to wait until I'm 21 to file any paperwork. I wanted to start a business that pertained to other countries and just the world. To give back to other people who went through similar situations like me." So, how old do you think you have to be to start a line of soccer jerseys sporting the name of countries? It turns out 19 is the answer. "I actually just graduated from high school in 2016. I know I'm a baby! But in high school, in 10th grade I did an extra club called the Young Entrepreneurs Academy and they helped me do my DBA and write my business plan. We did an investor panel and they donated $1,083 to my business and I got to purchase all the items that I needed. My mom gave me like $800 to finish off spending and I ordered all my accessories and I snuck in a T-shirt press. I kind of started ordering T-shirt press materials and I didn't know anything about it but I got into it and here I am today."
Before she snuck a t-shirt press, Chynna made a number of products and sold them at craft fairs. "I was doing a lot of rosaries, glass beads, bracelets, earrings and breast cancer pieces...I was going to a lot of craft shows so I had a bunch of cell phone cases designed as well. I don't know I just feel like business is something that I've always wanted to do so being creative just gave me the edge to create something else."
Chynna's situation with her father left her lots of room to learn from her mom. "My mom is very artistic. She makes all types of stuff. I've seen her make a purse out of old jeans, earrings - that's really how I got started - because of my mom. We started making jewelry pieces together. Then I got into it and started liking it and then in school I always loved art so it was just something that I knew I could stick with and actually enjoy." Her mom taught her all she needed to know about jewelry, but when Chynna snuck in a t-shirt press, she had no idea what she was doing. "I was pretty much YouTube-ing and google-ing different videos to see how they did different techniques and what I needed. I went off of that and that pretty much helped me, I pretty much taught myself. "
Chynna's company name, Foreign Plug, was given by her fellow students. "I was doing a program called New Visions for people who wanted to go into a business or healthcare field and they set us up with different programs...my classmates pretty much helped me. They were like,' Oh you're Guyanese so foreign would be like perfect." So I just said Foreign Plug and I liked it, my classmates did a vote on it and I went from there."
Lion Style came from a musical group her boyfriend is friends with. "My two partners [Xavier and Walter] both came in with Lion Style. They actually have a music group called Young Lion, so they wanted to brand off from music into clothing. We combined it recently - just this year - and so far we're doing pretty good."
Are you wondering what countries have their names rep-ed on the back of a Foreign Plugs Jersey? "We did the Virgin Islands, we're about to do a Peru shirt. I have done a Haitian shirt - our next shirt set to release is our Guyana shirt. That one I pre-designed a year ago, but I took time to release it because I wanted it to be a signature for me. "
Chynna can't wait to go to Guyana and is set to hopefully travel next year once she turns 21. When I asked if the cultural styles there will influence her design she answers,"Definitely, I mean I do look at other products, other people in my area, you know look to see what other trends are. See what I can improve on and what I can take back and maybe give me more ideas for my pieces."
She's so excited for North Carolina Fashion Week saying, "I'm excited [about NCFW], this is going to be my first debut really big down there... I'm happy that I combined with my two partners, that we can continue this and get our message out there." Chynna and her partners spread their message by marketing online through social media. "Anytime I'm up I'm trying to keep posting [and] make sure I put it out there so people know what's coming up for us, what events we might be at."
Something else Chynna gets excited about - seeing people wearing her designs. "It's like a thrill because when I first released them I didn't think they were gonna be that big. I was like 'okay I'm gonna do shirts'. When I see someone wear it, it's like - excitement. Because I see people in my city all across West Side, like all different sides of our city here I see people wearing my stuff. It's like a thrill that someone is wearing something I made. "
And in five years, she sees herself doing the same thing, but on a bigger scale. "I definitely see myself coming off of the internet more and opening up a storefront destination. I definitely want to build my clothing line as whole brand instead of just all shirts or just a certain item." And personally? Her bachelor's degree for business will be complete."I'm thinking of finishing up [with] my masters at SUNY Empire."
Although Chynna has had a great success rate, she has run into a challenge - colors. "Narrowing down what colors to pick. We could do any color it just has to be strongly liked, we do our stuff for unisex. So far it hasn't been too bad."
The biggest thing she's taking away from all this? What she's learned about herself. "I can somewhat put trust into others. I've been doing this for the last couple of years by myself, so I'm starting to open more to my partners. We've been combining and I'm trying to grow as a team."
- x Reyna