Bringing together a beautiful collision of colour and culture, Chaya Boutique Liputa by Bee Loko aims to give their customers from all walks of life to feel a powerful embrace of the beauty of African culture through their headwraps and accessories. With bright patterns encompassing their products of fashion that are primarily sourced from South Africa, the pieces offered by Chaya Boutique Liputa hopes to inject their customers with the ability to proudly flaunt the rich heritage and lusciousness of Africa, whilst making a statement with something to complete their outfit and their overall look in the strongest and boldest manner possible.
With the upcoming Gathered Design Market in October, I had a Q&A with Bee about her anticipations around participating in the market as a stall holder – have a read of our exchange below:
Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, Bee?
Bee: I get called Chaya all the time, people just assume that’s my name. My actual name is Bernadette (Bee), I’m a mother of two, wife of one, and lover of colours. Born in Angola, raised in Melbourne and currently living in Adelaide.
Tema: How did you decide on the name of your business – Chaya Boutique Liputa?
Bee: The business is named after my daughter Chaya. She’s the reason for my creations and inspirations. Chaya is a Hebrew name that means life/ alive. And ‘Liputa’ simply means African fabric in Lingala (my mother’s native language). The name was inspired by the birth of Chaya and my mother’s culture.
Tema: What made you decide on starting up your own business?
Bee: My mother used to be a business women. She travelled abroad to buy stock and sold it in the markets of Luanda, Angola. Most of my early childhood memories in Africa was of my mother and I at the market. After the birth of my daughter Chaya, I lost passion for my pathology job and knew that it was time to start something that would give me extra quality time with my children, as well as recreating our own market memories.
Tema: I see that you used to be based in Melbourne – when did you move to Adelaide and what made you move between the cities?
Bee: We made the big move to Adelaide in April this year. I’m still so surprised that I actually made the move. I never thought I was going to live in Adelaide – I guess it’s true when they say “never say never”! My husband went to high school and university here, and he has always wanted to raise the kids in a quiet environment. I was aware that Adelaide is great for families, so my act of obedience brought me here.
Tema: How did you decide on what to offer via Chaya Boutique Liputa?
Bee: Our choices are simple and straight forward – we aim to break cultural boundaries through our statement pieces. We believe in the freedom of experiencing one another’s culture and celebrating our diversity. For example, some people are not sure if it’s culturally appropriate to wear African head wraps. Our intention is to demystify that idea and to encourage people to be bold and confident.
Tema: Where do you source your materials to create your eye-catching patterned works?
Bee: Our materials are sourced from various places, with Africa being our main source. We also work closely with few artisans in Indonesia, who supply the skeleton of our range of rattan bags. The inner layers, however, are handmade by yours truly. On a separate note, what’s a small business without local collaborations? Chaya boutique Liputa is passionate about interacting with other local businesses. We source our jewellery findings locally and we’re looking forward to more collaborations.
Tema: What inspires you to create your designs for your accessories?
Bee: My inspiration to create comes from the idea of empowering women to find confidence and boldness in their image. To not be afraid of being different and unique, to embrace colour and diversity.
Tema: Where do you often go to get some inspiration if you’re going through a creative block?
Bee: When I’m going through a creative block, I listen to my children. It’s funny, but my son really does come up with great ideas. He’s always trying to solve problems on my behalf!
Tema: On average, how long does it take you to fill up your website with your products? Or do you prefer to work on a pay-as-you-go basis?
Bee: I usually dedicate one day a week to update the products online. I create my products in blocks of 20 to 30. Once we’ve reached halfway, I than create more. Although this can actually be a really tricky one, some of the products don’t even get photographed on time after being produced to make it online, since they sell out during markets. The struggle is real, but somehow we still manage.
Tema: How long has Chaya Boutique Liputa been in business for? How have you found the journey so far?
Bee: We’ve been in business for three years. The journey has been nothing but interesting! Any business can relate to the general ups and downs of establishing a business. The challenges, the victories, uncertainties, and the sudden moments of clarity that keep one going. One of the main trials we faced earlier on in Melbourne was the fact that we were different to everyone else, and people were afraid of trying something new. We had to work hard on bridging that gap. Once we climbed that huge mountain, Adelaide came into the picture with its own set of challenges that we are currently taking down.
Tema: Do you primarily run online or do you have a physical shopfront / stockists where people can access your products / services?
Bee: We are currently only online at the moment, but we can be found at local markets on a monthly basis. We are also working towards distributing our products across local stores. Keep an eye out.
Tema: What do you think helps Chaya Boutique Liputa unique and a stand-out?
Bee: Besides our vibrant prints, we don’t just let you walk away without a tutorial. Whether it’s online or at the market, we are hands-on with our customers. Our products are also made with the intention of minimizing waste. Have you seen our coffee pod earrings?
Tema: What have you found rewarding about being a small scale business in Adelaide / South Australia?
Bee: Seeing people confidently breaking cultural boundaries.
Tema: What have you found challenging about being a small scale business in Adelaide / South Australia?
Bee: Trying to coordinate the many nuances of a business alone.
To be honest, unlike Melbourne, I find Adelaide to be a bit more conservative with their colour choices, as well as the extravagance of their jewellery. However, the reception has been warm and we are breaking ground – one headwrap at the time.
Tema: How did you get involved with Gathered SA?
Bee: A friend suggested the Gathered SA market as a platform to showcase my products and my business. I had it down on my list of contacts, but it wasn’t until I signed up for the See Gathered Brand workshop, that I realized that I was actually speaking to the girls behind Gathered SA, who also happen to be running the same workshop that I signed up for!
Tema: What are you anticipating from the upcoming Gathered SA market?
Bee: I’m looking forward to connecting with new customers. I’m also looking forward to meeting other creatives! At this point connections, are very important to me as I’m looking to build relationships for future collaborations.
Tema: What can people expect from visiting and/or supporting your business at the Market?
Bee: A friendly face and a colourful stall that will brighten up your day. We will also be doing live demonstrations on how to wear our head wraps, This will be a great opportunity to get some tips and tricks for those who are not familiar with our products.
Tema: What would you like your customers to experience by buying something from you?
Bee: We aim for our customers to experience a piece of Africa without traveling. To be empowered as they add a splash of colour, a dash of personality, and a burst of confidence to their outfits.
Tema: Is there anything else that you’d like us to know about you and your business Chaya Boutique Liputa?
Bee: Chaya Boutique Liputa is a mother and daughter relationship. It’s a process of passing down the baton. The same confidence my mum passed down to me, I wish to relay to my daughter, in hopes to inspire, empower, and spread colour along the way. The intention is to always inspire boldness. There are plenty of colours in the world why limit your options?
You can visit Chaya Boutique Liputa at the Gathered Design Market on October 26 + 27 from 10am – 4pm at the Queen’s Theatre in the Adelaide CBD.
Entry to the market is $2 and there is $4 (flat rate) parking available on Saturdays and Sundays at K Park along Playhouse Lane.
With thanks to Jenna O’Dell from Gathered SA for the interview opportunity.
Interview conducted by Fatema “Tema” Sitabkhan
Answers + images supplied by Bee Loko // Chaya Boutique Liputa