“The art of fashion and costume design is everything to me because it tells us who we are. Our clothing is our history. Capturing what we wear at any given moment is the best time capsule we have.” – Raxann Chin
Raxann Chin is an award-winning international fashion designer and the owner of Femheka couture clothing line. She is also an accomplished costume designer and visual artist with extensive experience in film, television, theater, and global live events. With a communications degree and a decade of experience working on Wall Street, she pivoted after the financial crisis of 2008 to realize her long-held dream of a career in fashion. Within two years of launching Femheka in 2012, her gowns were featured on the red carpets of events including the Academy Awards and the Cannes Film Festival. Her film and television experience includes productions like American Trial – The Eric Garner Story, Disney’s Keeping up with the Claus, and the independent series Cady Did, for which she and her collaborator Christopher Lawrence were nominated for Best Costume Designat the 2022 Indie Series Awards.
We caught up with Raxann to dig deeper into the woman behind the designer and her personal journey to achieving her dream.
“Time always seemed to pause for me when I close my eyes, and smell and touch fabric.”
Like many children growing up in Jamaica in the 80’s and 90’s, Raxann remembers accompanying her mother to the seamstress. The multitude of colors and textures paired with department store catalogues and fashion magazines; the measurements and fittings; the burst of excitement upon receiving and trying on custom outfits, all opened up a world of possibility and imagination for the young girl.
As a girl who describes herself as “girly and sparkly”, Raxann loved hunting through her mother’s room for scraps of fabric to make doll’s clothes. As a teenager, she would bleach her jeans, paint her sneakers, and convert her uncle’s shirts into dresses. Style was an innate part of who she was.
“I have a vivid memory at 4 years old when my father took me on a glass bottom boat. I honestly was so awed that the memory rooted forever.”
When she decided to leave the financial sector and launch out with her own fashion line, Raxann traveled to Jamaica to decompress and rejuvenate, as she finalized her designs. To relax before deciding on the creative direction of the collection, she snorkeled at Negril’s fabled 7-mile beach, where the water is so clear, it sparks joy in one’s soul. While in the water, witnessing the vibrant colors of the coral reef, dappled with flecks of light and warmth from the sun, Raxann’s creative antennas were acutely peaked. By the time she surfaced (after what seemed like an hour) she had chosen her color palette and the direction for the designs. At the debut of her first collection at Caribbean Fashion Week in Jamaica, the models walked to Caribbean Blue by Enya.
Raxann assured me, “It was the blue Caribbean Sea of Jamaica that awakened my senses and I had to pay it homage.”
Born to design
“I passionately wanted to express myself artistically, it was bursting from the seams. I knew all I needed to do was start, and figure it out one step at a time.”
Raxann’s fashion journey has been organic – something deeply innate, iterative, and experimental. She started modeling in local fashion shows in Jamaica from the age of 4 and later became a semifinalist in the Miss Jamaica World Beauty Pageant in 1994. During high school, despite her science focus, she constantly haunted the art department, feeling a deep draw towards the creative even then.
When a fashion career emerged as a serious business consideration, her previous finance experience on Wall Street was the perfect synergy to her innate design talent. She knew she had what it took to be a successful designer and she stepped out in faith, combining her considerable skills and savoir-faire to make her dream come true.
When asked how she successfully moved from business to fashion, without formal training in the latter, Raxann opined:
“As a creative, I do a myriad of things that I’ve never been taught formally but saw in my mind. I reverse-engineered it and applied myself and kept doing it until I got the results I wanted. For example, when I was getting married, I knew what I wanted my shoe to look like. I couldn’t locate what I desired, so I bought a shoe with a similar structure, bought the rhinestones separately, then brought it to a shoemaker and walked him through the areas I needed reinforced.”
The muse of myth
Being able to fuse the 3 deepest loves of my life – fashion, art and mythology – in my brand is a dream come true.”
Looking at some of Raxann’s designs, the subtle draping of the fabric over the model’s curves, ending in a single strap over one shoulder is highly reminiscent of Greek and Roman mythology. Mythology is all about storytelling and ancient archetypes, and its central to Raxann’s design ethos:
“The signature draping, coiling, flow and regal elements of the brand echo the blend of the past, present and future, with mythology as its backdrop.”
She particularly loves to make women feel special, “like goddesses”. That is what gives her the greatest satisfaction.
Raxann’s 5 tips to activate your inner diva:
1. Meet yourself where you are; shop for your shape.
2. Declutter – choose quality pieces over quantity
3. Consider cut and color choices that complement you.
4. Chic accessories can make even a muted look stand out.
5. Fabric choice is key; choose quality fabric that will elevate your look.
Elements of success
“Whether I was on Wall Street doing finance, designing clothing for my clients through my fashion line, or creating costumes for a film or stage production, I have always viewed myself as being in service of whoever the beneficiary of my skills may happen to be.”
For Raxann, excellent customer service is key. The desire to ensure that her clients are always satisfied is deeply ingrained and a major factor in her success. Listening carefully to discover exactly what her client needs, consistency and discipline are also critically important. To achieve purpose though, involves more than thinking of oneself. For Raxann, this means leaving a legacy, mentoring others in order to pass the baton. She eventually would like to teach business of fashion courses, conveying her combined creative and financial knowledge to help others succeed.
Raxann’s advice for aspiring designers
“The most important thing to know as a visual artist is to anchor yourself in your art and become obsessive about the details. To be a great visual designer, you need to be unwavering with getting the details right. Whatever you design, produce it at its highest quality. Be yourself. Seek inspiration but don’t imitate. And always stay curious!”