Christina Banjo (Keynes 2006), who graduated from Kent in 2009, has been selected as a finalist for an international emerging designers competition, The Abury Design Experience.
The Abury Design Experience (ADEx) is the first international contest for emerging designers to create an accessory collection using traditional crafts knowledge from different cultures. Christina is one of nine finalists who will be up for the public vote, and was selected out of 80 candidates from 35 countries.
The two winners of the competition will receive a travel and production budget up to 5000 Euros and will also spend up to three months in Morocco or Ecuador. Not only will they have the opportunity to feature in leading fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar Germany, their collections will also be marketed with their names under ABURY, with half of the profits made being re-invested back into community educational programs.
Whilst studying her degree in Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management at Kent, Christina worked part-time for Liberty in London. ‘A sales manager from one of the brands we stocked visited the store to talk about the inspiration behind the new collection’ explains Christina. ‘I was immediately inspired, and asked her if I could intern at her company.’
The sales manager invited Christina to attend London Fashion Week, where Christina watched her talk to people about the collection and sell to store buyers. The experience inspired Christina to sell handbags of her own. ‘I went to a wholesale shop in London and bought 50 bags, which I then advertised to my friends at University and on Facebook. I went on to sell all of them.’ But Christina desired more creative input. After graduating from Kent and working as an HR Assistant in London for three years, she enrolled on short courses in handbag design with the London College of Fashion. She later travelled to Spain, where she spent time with Spanish artisans, learning the craft of luxury handbags, before launching her leather accessories brand Christina Chi in 2014.
Christina was unsure what career path to pursue when she left Kent. ‘I think one of the challenges I faced after leaving university was getting the first proper job. You think that, because you have a degree, you will have better access to jobs, but that’s not always the case. Though I enjoyed my degree, it was not a field which I felt passionate enough about to work in for very long. I was always going to set up a business, I just didn’t know at that time which field it would be in’ says Christina.
Her future aspirations are to further develop her business, and later to possibly invest in the tourism and leisure industry. ‘I want to grow my business to a point where I feel I have made an impact and a difference. I consider myself a business person first, and designer second. My passion lies in the operation of running a designer brand’ explains Christina. ‘I’ve learned that it’s important to be commercially minded and know what will sell, and how you should go about it.’
Voting for the Abury Design Experience is now open, and will close on 9 May.