Tianah Hodding

How does a cult brand following start? With a slide into the DMs. Tianah Hodding, founder of micro-sunglass label CHRISTIANAHJONES, knew how transformative influencers and tastemakers can be for fledgling brands when she reached out to the actress and model Kaia Gerber over Instagram.

‘I DM’d her,’ she says. ‘Wildly, she responded.’ Gerber loved the glasses and their distinctive tinted and pinched look. She wore them to Paris Fashion Week in 2018, where the paparazzi shots of her wearing them blew up the trend for micro-shades.

Tianah was soon flooded with orders – and more requests from celebrities. At the same time, however, she had to contend with the shadier side of the industry, namely fast-fashion copycats and risky financial investments.

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Micro-brand

Tianah is well versed in the power of social media on fashion and retail; her day job is heading up socials for the secondhand retail app Vinterior. Running CHRISTIANAHJONES as a side hustle, albeit one with global scale, comes with its challenges. ‘I struggled to get people on board at first because I wasn’t working on it full time,’ she says.

She says she gets a lot of judgement for her decision to work in this way, but for her it’s a matter of pragmatism. As a 25-year-old living in London, the security of a full-time job isn’t something to be taken lightly. ‘By working, I feel more comfortable funding everything,’ she says.

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Don’t take a “no” as feedback, but use it as motivation instead. It’s really easy for one person to say “no” to you and for you to assume your idea is terrible.
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Copycats

An unexpected expense came along quickly. ‘I was popping off so quickly that companies like eBay and Alibaba were stealing my designs and selling them for knock-off prices,’ she says.

Tianah consulted a lawyer but, beyond trademarking her company name and registering her designs with HMRC, there was little she could do. ‘That was really painful,’ she says.

The setbacks haven’t stopped her, though, and Tianah is now in the middle of a rebrand. She wants customers to be able to buy her collections from a range of online stores, anywhere in the world. ‘The long-term vision is to be the go-to eyewear label,’ she says.

As for the tiny sunglasses, she’s got her sights set on new designs and styles. But in keeping with her ethos, the collections themselves will stay small. ‘I want to drop two designs a year,’ she says.

Use a ‘no’ as fuel

Don’t take a “no” as feedback, but use it as motivation instead. It’s really easy for one person to say “no” to you and for you to assume your idea is terrible. As long as you’ve found your space in the market, or even if you just believe you can place yourself in the market, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be there. Just be very persistent, but in the most respectful way. Don't be annoying.’

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