Chima+Rose is an accessories and apparel company that popped up from the imagination of two sisters who saw the bags that they wanted in their day dreams but never during shopping excursions. Nnebuchi is the sister that can design, draw and sew and Ij is the sister who likes bags. One sister went to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Atlanta to fine tune the designs in her head and the other sister went to nursing school and did something else until she convinced her sister to start a handbag company.
Nnebuchi is the designer and the creative driver of the company. The sisters are first generation Nigerian Americans. Chima, their father is short for Chimalum, who is a writer, poet and professor. Rose, their mother is short for Rosemary, who is also a nurse. The sisters combined the traditional textiles and bold prints and colors that are characteristic of West African attire with the functionality and utility that is very much a part of Western fashion as the primary inspiration for the line.
Nnebuchi designed one of a kind bags while she attended SCAD Atlanta. She was bombarded by requests from strangers, classmates and the friends of classmates to make the bag that is now the signature bag of the line, the Zulu Bag. The bag is named after Zulu, their little brother. Meanwhile back at the ranch, Ij saw the bags on Facebook but had not seen one in person. When Nnebuchi came to visit with a red Zulu bag that she made for herself, Ij loved it so much that she convinced Nnebuchi to sell it to her. Ij was stopped at airports, malls, grocery stores and street corners by women who wanted to know where they could purchase the bag. She grew tired of saying, “my sister made it, it’s one of a kind, you can’t get it anywhere unless I call her, then you pick out your leather and mail it to her then she’ll sew it for you in between classes and then she’ll mail it to me, then I’ll call you and meet you somewhere and give it to you.”
The journey to production was…well…interesting. The sisters decided that they would like to keep production as close to home as possible. During their brainstorming and research sessions, they found out that companies wanted large orders and that most of those companies were in China. So, their other little brother suggested approaching local upholstery companies to take their orders. That’s how the post Nnebuchi bags were made. After a short lived relationship with upholstery companies, they found that even though they had experience with leather, the upholstery companies did not have the equipment to make any complicated designs. They decided to start a small factory with handpicked artisans. First item on the list…sewing machines.
So, Craigslist to the rescue. They posted an ad and guess who answered? The guy that makes the uniforms for Hooters. He told them to come and take a look at his factory in Roanoke Rapids. He said that the factory and everything in it was for sale. They rented a U-Haul and drove to the factory. A nice, older gentleman, 73 to be exact told them that he built the factory in ’79. He said he had a good run, but he lost his Hooters contract to a company in China. Hooters was his biggest client so he had to bid his employees adieu and retire to his cabin in the mountains. He gave the sisters advice, a big box of little, orange Hooters shorts, a box of little, white Hooters tank tops, fabric, and 6 sewing machines and helped them load the U-Haul and wished them good luck and sent them on their way.