Sitting down to do an interview with Benita Allen of “Chica-Loca!” , I’m overwhelmed with her energy, charisma and creativity. This stylish young designer has a string of awards behind her name, as well as a flourishing boutique in Cavendish Square, Cape Town. She also has outlets in Johannesburg and – lucky for us- sells her clothes online! It’s hard to imagine this mom-of-one finds the time to run a successful label, manage a shop, spit out new designs every month, dress celebrities, attend swanky events and spearhead the marketing and promotions of her brand! We order our lattes from Vida E and get to work on the interview. If you would like to check the “Chica-Loca!” Facebook Page, click HERE.
Tamika: Where are you from originally?
Benita: Cape Town.
Tamika: Where did you go to school?
Tamika: What kind of training did you do for design, if any?
Benita: I studied a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Cape Town. I dropped out of that and attended the Kalk Bay School of Fine Arts. I also did a course in oil painting at that time. After my studies were competed, I travelled for five years and tried my hand at various things. I was an artist for a bit, a P.A., I worked in advertising, and so on. I then focused more on fashion specifically and completed a diploma in Fashion Design at the Cape Town College of Fashion. That was three years. After that I immediately started up Chica-Loca! around 2004.
Tamika: When did your label start and where can we find your clothes?
Benita: In 2004. So it’s been going for 9 years. You can find the clothes in Cavendish Square, Cape Town, and also at Egality at 25 4th Avenue, Parkhurst, Johannesburg. I also stock online at 36Boutiques.
Tamika: Where did you find the money for your first collection or even outfit that you designed – parents, fundraising events?
Benita: I started off designing a range of tops for Crayon Shoes – they hosted private shoe parties. I sold at their invitation-only events until I was approached by Kim from India Jane at one of the parties. She took on my entire collection in all three of her boutiques and things took off from there! I got my name Chica-Loca! because it’s Spanish for “crazy girl”. I studied Spanish and I liked the phrase!
Tamika: What are your influences, mainly? What are you inspired by?
Benita: I have a fabric-first philosophy. I find fabric that I like first, and then I’m inspired to design my clothes.
Tamika: What’s in the pipeline for you at the moment – what collection, fashion show, event etc.?
Benita: I’m very excited about stocking at Egality. Also with our newest input which has gone into 36Boutiques.
Tamika: Have you won any awards?
Benita: When Design Indaba started a few years ago, I was one of the featured young designers. We’ve been nominated for a lot of fashion awards over the years since then and have also received a lot of media.
Tamika: What designer do you look up to?
Benita: Mary Katrantzou.
Tamika: Are you planning on staying in South Africa?
Benita: I have no set plans on staying in South Africa.
Tamika: Where do you party, usually?
Benita: I don’t! Haha! I attend functions and special occasions.
Tamika: What’s in the boot of your car right now?
Benita: My five-year-old’s drawings!
Tamika: Do you have siblings?
Benita: Yes, one brother.
Tamika: What does your family do?
Benita: My dad has a car body shop and my mom works with me. She does the accounts.
Tamika: What’s a typical day for you?
Benita: I take Scarlett to school first, then I go to my studio above The Lot in Kloof Street. I source fabrics, do admin, plan, design and work! work! work!
Tamika: Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
Benita: I would like to continue establishing Chica-Loca! as a successful brand and achieve some real success nationwide and internationally.
Tamika: What’s one interesting thing about you that your followers don’t you?
Benita: I’m obsessed with mixed martial arts!
Tamika: Name a place you love.
Benita: I love walking my dog anywhere.
Tamika: Do you do any charity work?
Benita: I do contribute to a few charities regularly but I could do more! I am very involved in any events that empower women. I support animal anti cruelty – animals are very close to my heart.
Tamika: What do you tell yourself when you have finished your latest work/creation?
Benita: “What next!?”