Karla Designs Artisan Made Leather Bags and Clothing to Go Wherever Life Takes You
What’s your story?
I am of Mexican descent and, since 2004, have lived and worked abroad in many different parts of the world, such as the USA, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
As a young girl, I dreamt about having my own business. My parents were my inspiration as I come from an entrepreneurial family. When I moved to Hong Kong, I started my own business called, Mika Rouge where I design multifunctional leather bags. At this time, I also became a mother. While my girls were still babies, the inspiration for a clothing brand came to me when I saw a photo of my sister, in Mexico, wearing a beautiful top that was fully handcrafted by Mexican artisans. I saw an opportunity to bring unique Mexican style clothing to Asia and to promote the work of Mexican artisans, so I added a new brand, RougeMEX852, to my existing business.
As of March 2016, we officially split the brands, and now RougeMEX852 is a separate brand. The split was very well received by our clients and we are excited to observe how people love the brand, and in particular, appreciate the handcrafted work that goes into making each individual and unique piece.
What excites you most about your industry?
As a Mexican, I am really happy to introduce products made in my country by my people. We help preserve a very long standing tradition and have created jobs for Mexican artisans.
I love that each of my products are unique. Each one of a kind piece is completely handmade by talented artisans. It can take up to 3 weeks to make one intricate top! I also love that our products and designs are timeless, so they have a very long life, which is very important for the environment.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I have been living in Asia for the last 9 years. Hong Kong is home for me. I started my dream as an entrepreneur in this amazing city full of opportunities and, most importantly, I started my journey as a mother of triplets, here in Hong Kong. I had a super high risk pregnancy and my triplets were born healthy, in one of the best public hospitals in the world. Hong Kong will always be home for me.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hong Kong for sure. Banking, logistics, the ease of setting up a business in Hong Kong, the entrepreneurs network here, and the support that you have from other entrepreneurial women is amazing. Also rewarding is the support that you receive from other expats and local people.
I see a change in Hong Kong where people are becoming more conscious as buyers. Many of our clients really care about where the products come from, what the story is behind the brand, and how that has an impact on their shopping experience.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The advice to separate my businesses, Mika Rogue and RougeMex852. It was not an easy decision to start all over again from zero, building a new Instagram following, and attracting new clients to the brand, but it was the best decision, ever.
Who inspires you?
My mom. She is an amazing entrepreneur and, at almost 70, she is still rocking!
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
With the current global situation, I have been very touched by the way people around me are handling this. The kindness that I see is inspiring.
I have learned that I need to adjust to changes and that there are things that we can’t control. The most important lesson is to live here and now. I’m enjoying the present without feeling guilty for not thinking about tomorrow.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. Whatever I did before took me to where I am now.
How do you unwind?
Yoga, meditation and hiking.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Koh Samui. Since the triplets was born, we have changed our travel style and instead of traveling the world, we go to “Villa Carlotta“ in Samui (www.villacarlottasamui.com). It’s perfect for a family with young kids. I now know my way around Samui so we really feel at home dining in our favourite restaurants around the island and shopping in our favourite spots.
Samui is a beautiful island that reminds me of Tulum or Playa del Carmen in Mexico.
Everyone in business should read this book:
“Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose,” by Tony Hsieh.
Shameless plug for your business:
Ethical fashion is the recognition that there are human beings behind the clothes that we wear.
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connects’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.