Lydia Gachery, a Kenyan born jewelry designer, is fusing her heritage with her European living experience in Denmark and Sweden to bring Calgary a unique line, Chéché Couture. She has been designing since the early 2000s and uses various mediums such as wood, leather, beads, semi-precious stones and metal.
Gachery was born in the vibrant city of Nairobi where she grew up with her brother and “a lot of sisters,” she says with a laugh.
“Growing up, my role models were my sisters and my Mother. My Mother is a very strong woman and she taught us how to be independent and think outside the box; she is an entrepreneur and my Dad is a retired doctor, so for them education was key.”
During her adolescent years, fashion was the farthest thing from her mind. Sports was her world. At 18 everything changed; she cut off her long hair as it became a nuisance. Plus she was subconsciously inspired by the sultry voice of musician, Toni Braxton.
Gachery liked the artist’s sensuality and sweetness and associated short hair with this notion. But it also became apparent to her that with short hair she would need an element of feminine softness.
“I started seeing fashion and accessorizing differently. It became fun, whereas before I dreaded it because I thought it would take too much time or I would lose who I am, but I didn’t,” she says.
At 18, she also had the opportunity to study abroad attending the Copenhagen Business Academy where she received her degree in multimedia design and communication specializing in e-business. Here is where she learned the entrepreneurial aspect of her business she uses today.
During her time in school, she worked for a firm that created products for cancer patients. On her time off, she would explore her creative side working on making jewelry. After she graduated, she stayed on with the firm because of its continued flexible schedule; this allowed her to take her creative side to a new level and she started becoming involved in fashion events.
She first got involved in a fashion charity event as the lead stylist co-ordinating with designers and models. This experience opened many doors.
Gachery went on to study at the Istituto Marangoni in Paris, an Italian Fashion Institute with other locations in London, Milan, Firenze and Shanghai, for a summer taking a course receiving a diploma in styling.
“It taught me that if I was to create pieces, I’d also (not only have to consider) the influence of my heritage and my surroundings, (but) also my clientele and the region (they’re) in,” she explains.
She was invited to be part of a multi-cultural fashion event in Germany, this time designing clothes. She got to work with the elite in the industry.
Gachery moved to Canada where she is currently studying fine arts at the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) with a concentration in jewelry.
Q: Having lived and travelled in several different countries, what is your favourite spot and why?
A: Each place I have lived or visited has had something that I loved. I would say the place I wish most countries would emulate would be Scandinavia. Their healthcare system is free like in Canada, their social economic system is solid and education is free. Their society is built in a way that encourages people to have a debt free life.
Places I’ve travelled to that were some of my favourites include Cuba and the Netherlands. I loved the vintage cars, the bright markets and the warm welcoming people in Cuba. It was also a place that I drew inspiration from as an artist.
The Netherlands was also my favorite. I loved their nature which included small canals that make it very picturesque. After visiting a couple of cities including Amsterdam, I concluded that my favourite city is Utrecht, a small student city full of life and pleasant surprises; it’s a melting pot.
Q: You speak several different languages. What is it about language you gravitate towards?
A: It allows me connect with people from different parts of the world and helps me understand their culture slightly better.
Q: What do you enjoy most about creating your designs?
A: I would say the whole process from buying the materials, thinking of a theme inspiration to designing and finishing the pieces. Thinking outside the box is part of the creative process that can be challenging. This can happen when a style and design choice needs to be made to fit the idea and unconventional methods may need to be used. Learning to be patient is probably the biggest lesson that’s learned throughout the process.
By: Daniela Codreanu